Rob and Victoria Denton have been small group leaders for a few years; as they are soon to move to Geneva, Rob shares their story of being small group leaders and what God is doing in their network.
What have you valued about small groups and being in a network?
Let me say this: our small group, 'The Hunger,' is the best at St George’s, if not in the world! Of course, I would say that, and it regularly delights me to hear other small group leaders say that theirs is the best too. Our small groups at St G's are led with passion and devotion. I have always found that enthusiasm easy to come by as I get so much from my group; I mostly feel more like a member than a leader.
We're called 'The Hunger' because we eat together every week, and we strive to have a hunger for God. Eating together every week is fabulous, we really get to know each other and it's such a great way for new members to integrate quickly. It's also a great way to serve each other. Different members of the group take in turns to bring pudding, lay the table and wash up. Obviously, it's great for me and Vic not to have to worry about all the clearing up, but more that I have come to really cherish these times of working together. Some of the most frank, tender, real, emotional and accountable conversations have happened elbow to elbow over the kitchen sink.
Another hugely valuable aspect of The Hunger has been the prayer diary that we keep. Every few weeks we go back through it to see how the situations we have lifted to God have changed. Seeing our humble requests dealt with over time has massively grown my faith in a God who cares for the details of my life and is involved in them, and who loves it when I involve myself in his world through Him. It's also been fabulous from an accountability point of view. If the group sees me asking for help with the same stuff week on week (reading my bible, say), they start to intervene and ask helpful questions. How much effort have I put in? How organised have I been? Would I like a reminder by text every few days? Having a safe place to be honest and kept true to ones intentions is absolutely one of the shining highlights of time in a small group.
The network has been a recent blessing too. For a start, it's been the place our new members have come from. It's also provided some great social times. Having had several now we're starting to get to know one another better. Only meeting more rarely, this has taken time, but I now cherish the relationships I am building. It's great to turn up a Saturday morning Bible track seminar and be able to talk to a wider bunch of people than a couple of years ago. It's called a network, and that's just what it does.
What has been the highlight over the years?
There are just too many to mention, but here's three that highlight the generosity of spirit the integrity and commitment to spiritual truth that is the hallmark of the group:
- The Hunger painted most of my house. I love looking at different rooms and remembering the fellowship that went into them.
- Ex members returning for parties. You might move on from the Hunger, but you never leave. It's so gratifying to see the depth of relationship borne out by people who have moved on in life still feeling at home in group.
- When we were up to eyes in DIY and on a tight schedule, 2 of the group mucked in with power tools to lay flooring at 9pm after the session while the rest of the group tidied up and cleaned around us. What a team effort, and we didn't even have to ask!
- Seeing people recently battle though some really difficult theology about same-sex relationships so sensitively, without anger or judgement, and come out the far side still loving each other and with a wider point of view. I was really proud of us then.
What has been God doing in your life in the last few years as leaders?
I feel like God has put me on a real road to deeper discipleship and leadership in the last few years. It's been a privilege to be asked to give sermons at Community Church and Wrangthorn this year, as well as a couple of Alpha talks. I'm really curious as to where this is going and I'm starting to feel a real calling to more of it, but moving to Geneva takes it in unexpected directions. Let's just see where that goes.
What is your prayer for Networks at St Georges?
I pray that networks help people connect to each other and feel at home in the church. I pray that they are source of comfort, truth, fellowship, joy, service and love. I pray they give everyone at St G's a chance to feel included and a real part of the family. I see so much of this growing already, and I give thanks to God for that.
To find out more on Networks and Small Groups click here.