World Christian Support Groups
A model for developing world-mission vision and action
A "World Christian Support Group (WCSG)." Not necessarily a new idea, but potentially important as you consider how to maintain and grow your interest in world missions. A WCSG is simply based on the concept that you are stronger as a group than you are individually. Think about the analogy of sticks on fire. Separately, a stick of wood that has been set on fire will soon lose its flame. However, a group of sticks arranged together can create a huge bonfire that burns for a long time. A WCSG can keep the fire of a heart for missions burning in the lives of Christians who have caught the spark.
Many Christians make strong commitments to serve the Lord wherever and however He leads them, but then time and temptation cause their convictions to fade away. A WCSG can provide support and encouragement to keep this dedication to God from dying. Together you can increase your knowledge and understanding of God's purposes for the world and actively take a part in it each day. In addition to providing support, a group can provide opportunities that would not be available to individuals alone, such as uniting in prayer for unreached peoples, inviting international student friends to dinner, interacting with experienced missionaries, etc. Do not limit God and what He can do when Christians unite for His purposes.
The specific ideas for WCSG's came from two Purdue University students' project for the "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" class. They saw these needs within their campus ministries for those who had made commitments to serve the Lord in fulfilling the Great Commission. Their idea was to develop a support group for their campus that could be easily adapted to meet needs on other campuses. With the cooperation of Caleb Project's Student Mobilization Division, World Christian Support Groups were born.
From that original WCSG, two have left for ministries in the former U.S.S.R., another is attending a missionary candidate school, and two others are involved in their church's mission committee, supporting ministries that extend to the ends of the earth. It is the goal of Caleb Project that these groups benefit many more students and help you to grow in your commitment to world missions and to reach the unreached. We want to serve you as you seek to grow personally and mobilize others to see the Great Commission fulfilled in our generation.
Bob Barge & Nate Wilson, Editors.
Find out if there is already a mission fellowship at your campus or church (or a nearby one)-you may not have to start a group in the first place! But if you need to start your own group:
It doesn't have to be called a "WCSG"! Be sensitive to the fact that as you organize a group within your fellowship with a separate agenda and a separate name, it will distance you from your original fellowship. You might want to include the name of the larger organization in the name of your WCSG, and parallel their purpose. You are under no obligation to use our name.
In this paper, we are using the term "WCSG" because it sounds better than "doo-hickey." This is your group which you will custom design as you follow God's leading. Call it whatever you want!
Since the emphasis of a WCSG is on developing World Christian lifestyles, the group should meet often enough to provide support for this. If involvement in a WCSG is in addition to weekly Bible studies or prayer meetings, then we suggest three weeks between meetings. That's because the WCSG is not meant to replace these other activities, but to add to them by developing world vision within the whole ministry. Three weeks between meetings will be close enough to provide ongoing support without creating the unnecessary burden of additional meetings.
A WCSG need not be limited to people within one Christian fellowship, unless expanding would make it too large and unmanageable. Due to the support nature of the WCSG, it is important to keep the size limited to facilitate group interaction. Therefore if more than ten people are dedicated to the group, plans should be made split the group in two.
You may want to contact other Christian fellowships in your area to find more Christians who might be interested in a WCSG. Yet once again, if people from different Christian fellowships are involved, it is important to gain the support of the leaders of those fellowships by letting them know the time commitment required for WCSG meetings and explaining to them how the WCSG is designed to work with, not against, existing Christian ministry. Plans to start a WCSG could then be announced at Christian gatherings and publicized so that any individuals who might be interested do not miss this opportunity.
It basically boils down to: "What do you need?"
The structure of your WCSG meetings should be designed to meet the needs of you and your friends-whatever best nurtures a world vision in your group! We want to give you some ideas and let you choose the format(s) that will best suit you. As you read these notes on Meeting Structure, begin forming a rough picture of what you would like to see, and bring it before the group in your first meeting. As a group, you can refine the picture and decide together on the specific structure, length, where, when, and how often to meet. As you consider how to structure your meetings, consider the information on the next two pages:
On the back of this page is a description of the four basic ways a WCSG could go: You could make your primary emphasis to be Prayer, Accountability, Study, or Mobilization, depending on what your needs are and what you and your friends want to do. Think through these four basic types of WCSG meetings and decide which one best applies to you. We suggest that you choose only one type (which could be changed perhaps from semester to semester) simply because you won't have time to do everything. One specific idea is listed under each of the four types, and there are a jillion more listed in the WCSG Resources section (Pages 14-16).
Although you'll want to hone in on one of the four types, you don't want to become imbalanced. On the next page is a list of five important elements that should be a part of every WCSG. Please consider them too, as you work through the process of laying the foundation of your WCSG.
And remember: You can only go so far with your human reasoning, so bathe it with PRAYER!
The four meeting types
1. Prayer For missionaries, unreached peoples, and each other.
Prayer Partners Idea-It is very important that individuals in the WCSG receive encouragement and accountability between WCSG meetings. Hopefully everyone will feel free to call on one another whenever they need support, but it may help to plan this accountability. One effective method of doing this is to assign prayer partners. Prayer partners may meet at least once between meetings to share, pray together, and help each other apply what they have been learning.
2. Accountability Share goals and help each other fulfill them.
Accountability Idea-Ask everyone in the group to share something they want to do concerning their next steps personally in mission involvement, and write down these goals on a poster. Then pray for each other for these things. In subsequent meetings, as people fulfill their goals (or parts of their goals), check them off the poster.
3. Study Learn and apply information on missions.
Topical Study/Discussion Idea-The topics chosen for discussion during a meeting should depend on the needs and interests of the individuals in the group. The primary thing to consider is how much experience and knowledge members already have about missions. Plan ahead what topics will be discussed in order to keep meetings building on one another and so that members can study the topics on their own to have insight for the discussion. Ask your staff minister what resources your larger organization has on each topic you choose.
Possible Topics: Biblical basis for mission, International student ministry, History of Mission, Supporting missions and missionaries, Contextualization, What is an indigenous church?, The missionary's role, Preparation for ministry, Women in ministry, Barriers to cross-cultural ministry, Unreached people groups, Reaching closed countries, Urban ministry, Prayer, Mission mobilization, Lifestyle evangelism, Team ministry, Spiritual warfare, Bible translation, Music in missions, Fundraising, World religions
4. Mobilization Spread world mission vision on campus.
Evangelism Idea-A WCSG is not completely fulfilling its purpose if it only touches the lives of those in the group. As God works in your life and as you learn more about missions, you need to constantly and excitedly share with other Christians, in conversation and in action, what you are learning! If you would like to corporately share the vision God has given your group, a specific way of doing this would be to choose a vision-sharing tool (see Mobilize Others under the WCSG RESOURCES section-Pages 15-16) and have everybody in the WCSG learn how to share it. In a meeting, write down the names of three people you want to mobilize; go out and share it with them between meetings; and when you meet back together, share your experiences and hold the other members accountable to sharing with the people they had written down.
As you consider how to structure your meetings, keep the following important elements in mind, and think of how you would implement them in your structure:
is an important part of a WCSG because the task of world evangelization seems insurmountable without a realization that God is the driving force behind the spread of the gospel. True worship involves a meditative focus on God and His character. The natural outcome of this focus on God is joy and praise. Worship can take many forms including singing, praising God for what He is doing in the world, and thanking Him in prayer for His love for all peoples. After all, the end of time will find people from every nation worshipping God!
should be increased as a result of your meetings. Steps that help build a world vision include Bible study, reading missionary biographies, listening to missionary speakers, and discussing missions books, videos, and magazines. Resources you choose will depend on needs and interests of the individuals in your WCSG. The first place to look for these kinds of study materials should be your organization's international missions department or the missions board of your church denomination. (See alsoAVENUES brochure)
is an important part of any Christian fellowship and the WCSG is no exception. Begin the WCSG meeting in prayer for God to reveal more of Himself and His will during the meeting. Prayer is also an acknowledgment of dependence on God for world evangelization. Pray for the spread of the Gospel to unreached peoples and for God to help you to take an active role. Praying together for the world is an important part of sharing in the task of world evangelization.
An effective WCSG will be a community dedicated to helping and encouraging one another. This will happen as members share struggles, joys, and convictions of what God is doing in their lives. Take steps to allow group members to get to know one another and to feel comfortable enough with each other to be open and accountable. Many potential missionaries get sidetracked because of lack of accountability.
A world vision is meaningless if it is not followed with action. Spend time together discussing and praying about how to apply what God has been teaching you. Individuals may want to take specific actions themselves, but it is a good idea for the WCSG to agree on action steps as a group so that they can hold each other accountable. It is helpful if the application relates specifically to what was discussed during the meeting. Ideas for specific application steps are included in the WCSG RESOURCES Section.
Here are some ideas of how a meeting might go:
First Meeting: He is No Fool
To consider how the commission of Jesus, missions information, and world-wide needs may impact our lives. May also be used to follow up on a Caleb Project Traveling Team presentation.
4 min Listen to Twila Paris' song, He is No Fool.
15 min Discuss the message of the song:
15 min Discuss the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl (Matthew 13:44-46).
15 min Discuss how this perspective should influence our view of the world's unreached, the need for missionaries, and our response to Jesus' marching orders in the Great Commission.
4 min Prayer of dedication to discover God's plan for my life in light of these discussions
Make a commitment as a group to hold one another accountable to take steps in this area for a specified number of weeks as you meet together for encouragement and support through the WCSG.
Second Meeting: Biblical Perspective
To gain a new perspective of God as a Missionary God and to see that throughout His Word, He has been redeeming people to Himself and calling His children to join Him in His work.
From your interaction with the Bible in devotions, Bible study, church services, etc., keep a journal of all the times God was moving in ways to redeem people to Himself.
Third Meeting: Guest Missionary
To understand the practical, down-to-earth issues that face a missionary each day and see the motivations that keep him or her going for a lifetime.
Make a streamlined budget for yourself and stick to it for a month, giving all your extra income (or the amount that you save by foregoing unnecessary items) to a missionary.
Fourth Meeting: Pray for the Unreached
To be directly involved in God's purposes around the world by praying specifically for the work that He is presently doing among a specific people group.
Use the Global Prayer Digest to supplement your personal devotions and your weekly time with your prayer partner.
Fifth Meeting: "Friends" Video
To see what we can be doing now to reach a mission field at our doorstep-the international students among us.
Do something fun with an international student. Perhaps invite them to your home for dinner or for a holiday.
For those who have never led a group before and for those who need a refresher course, here's some advice from two seasoned veterans:
1. Lead by EXAMPLE
You are probably leading a WCSG because of your vision for the world and for seeing the Gospel taken to the yet unreached. This is the biggest asset you have to offer your group. Living as a "world Christian" in front of others may have the greatest impact on their lives. Therefore, you need to be growing as a Christian who loves the Lord Jesus with your whole heart and who wants to impact the world for His sake. This means keeping your own priorities in order. It means being a disciple who daily asks, "What have I done this day in my life that has counted strategically for Christ's global cause, especially those currently beyond reach of the gospel?" (See the book, In The Gap, p.15). What others desire most is a model. Your actions say volumes to others about the importance of making the unreached of the world a priority in life. Look for ways to facilitate discussion, inform about needs, expose new information, and introduce the group to other living examples of mature world Christians. Work to make the group not only a "support" group, but a mentoring group as well.
2. Lead using RESOURCES
Beyond leading by your life's example, there is a generous supply of good materials on leading small groups that can aid you in feeling confident to lead others. You can find good material both from secular and Christian writers in bookstores. (InterVarsity Press publishes several, including Small Group Leaders' Handbook and The Big Book on Small Groups.) These can help you understand groups and the stages that they go through as the members begin to trust one another and share more deeply about their own concerns and needs. Your own fellowship's leadership probably has some sort of leadership training program that you should probably ask to go through.
3. Lead as a SERVANT
Consider the interests of your members above your own (Philippians 2: 1-8). This will involve being well-prepared when you lead a meeting (so as not to waste their time). It will mean drawing those who are non-talkative into group discussions to show them that you value their input. And for the sake of the rest of the group, you'll need to direct the talkative ones, so that they can also learn to hold the other members in high regard. Do everything with the attitude of serving and helping your members. ."..whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." Matthew 20: 26-28
4. Pass The BATON
As soon as you start leading the WCSG, begin praying daily for God to provide a good leader to take over after you graduate. Let everything you do as a group have a secondary purpose of training up someone to take over the leadership of the group for when you leave. Need to set up chairs before a meeting? Ask another member to come early with you and do it with you! Involve members of the group in the decision making too; this draws them into leadership roles. A good leader never does it alone!
Traits to look for in potential leaders:
NOTE: When recruiting someone into leadership, don't overlook capable people who aren't very involved in the group. Those who will make good leaders often don't get involved because they don't feel responsible for anything. If you give them a responsibility, they may suddenly get interested and become a great leader!
When you delegate a responsibility to someone, take the time to orient them well, coach them along the way, and applaud their success. This takes some advance planning and may seem inconvenient at first, but it's worth it! If you fail to carefully delegate and coach, they are likely to either give up or do the task in an inappropriate manner, and they won't be there for you the next time you need to delegate a task! As potential leaders emerge, spend extra time with them-perhaps just meeting with one or two of them once or twice a week to discuss the group, talk about missions, and pray together.
Chances are, you will only be in leadership of this group one or two years. Make it count! Leave the group in good hands so it can be a blessing to many generations of students after you!