I’m sure anyone who comes to our church regularly see Mich, Andrey, Shann, Sharon, and Shinae cluster up together in formation at the corner of the Attic during service, sitting right next to the sound board; and then aimlessly mind their own business after service at the end of one of the long tables, only to leave altogether later for a trip to Starbucks. And if you're following at least one of them on Snapchat or Instagram, you’ve probably seen them exclusively hang out with each other— eating delicious food, watching a movie, putting on face masks, painting pottery, taking trips outside of Augusta, Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, and more Starbucks.
So, evidently, either you think to yourself, “Wow, I wish I had that, too,” or, if you’re on the completely opposite side of the spectrum, you think, “Wow, what jerks. They were already friends to begin with and now they wanna label their clique as a ‘life group’ so they sound holier?”
Well, here are some questions about the behind-the-scenes of OLC's first official Life Group (with answers from each of your own kitchen ajummas):
What's a brief breakdown of your meetings?
Last Semester, we met every Monday, usually around 5-7pm. This Spring 2016 Semester, we meet every Tuesday. We basically do all that you see on Snapchat (watch a movie, paint, face masks, eat, etc.). But what some of you don't know is that we plan meetings with a specific topic to talk about with questions to intentionally push each other out of our comfort zones, encouraging honesty and vulnerability. Our ultimate goal is to have a relationship that goes beyond having fun with each other, but instead intentionally seeking emotional and spiritual accountability.
What expectations did you have when you first joined a life group?
Shinae: Starting a life group was kind of scary at first. I was scared that everyone would expect a lot from me as a leader and from each other with opening up. I was really afraid to be compared to Rei because she's such a great leader, and I didn't want those same expectations to be placed on me (crying). I knew it would be hard and honestly I just wanted to get close to the people that I was already hanging out with and I was hoping they would get close each other as well.
Mich: The first time I ever heard of “Life Groups” was hearing about it from people that had been in one at Journey Church of Atlanta (JCA). From secondhand experience and seeing photos of what they did, I thought all they did was eat and hang out together once a week. Seemed like a lot of fun.
Shann: When Shinae asked me if I wanted to join her life group, I expected it to be really spiritual and Christ-centered. I thought we'd read and discuss the Bible, while sharing struggles and praise reports with each other. I love empathizing and sharing feelings with people I care about, so I was prepared for deep secrets and deep hurts. I honestly didn't expect to do anything fun, like driving to ATL, eating out, etc.
Andrey: Well, when we first started life groups, I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I thought we were just gonna hangout out. It was kind of awkward... Shann forced me to join.
Sharon: To be honest, I was terrified to join a life group. I initially didn’t want to join because the thought of sharing anything personal about me made me extremely anxious. When Shinae asked me to join (more like made me join), I expected to have deep talks about ourselves and Jesus along with sharing life together.
How is it different from regular friendships/cliques?
Shinae: My friendships with each of the girls have changed a lot. Before the life group, I was the closest to Sharon and I was the furthest away from Andrey. As we’ve grown to know each other more, the gap is gradually closing. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m happy to say that I love each one of them.
Mich: I think what sets life groups apart is that we are all consciously making an intentional effort to really know each other. It's much deeper than what our idea of friendship is. It's almost uncomfortable because we try and talk about very personal details.
Shann: Before joining Life Group, my friendships with Shins, Mich, and Sharon almost seem superficial. It was truly surface level, in a sense that they didn’t really know who I was because I was an edited and refined version of myself whenever I hung out with them. Thankfully, defining our friendship has forced us to get closer to each other. I can truthfully say that we aren't just friends that hang out, but we're friends who are willing to carry each others' burdens together.
Andrey: It has given me a new perspective about people and the definition of "friendship." I'm sure people thought all 5 of us were really good living room/kitchen room friends, but in reality I considered most of them to be in my office. It's difficult for me to grow closer to people because I push people away. It's still a work in progress, but I know now that I can lean on them when times get tough.
Sharon: In my opinion, life group relationships are more intentional than regular friendships. Ordinary friendships/cliques sprout from common interests whereas life groups are grown through awkwardness, vulnerability, and intentionally spending time together. I’m not the easiest person to get close to but with time and conversations, I’m learning to let people in.
How has life group benefited you?
Shinae: Before life groups, I wasn’t sure who I could open up to and I struggled with getting close to people. Our life group has helped me to be vulnerable and learn what it means to be personal with others. Eventually, I've learned to be more open with people outside of our life group and accepted that it was okay to cry.
Mich: Even though I grew up in the church I didn’t really have a community around me until recently. Being in this group gives me a sense of accountability and belonging that is different from regular friendships.
Shann: This group goes beyond “church friendship." It’s a safe place where I feel like I can share my deepest secrets. These girls probably know more about me than I know about me. And because this group requires commitment, a lot of grace, and a lot of patience, I am challenged every week to become a better friend and a better woman.
Andrey: Life Group benefits me because it keeps me accountable. Intentionally getting to know each other and building relationships more than "surface friendship" is both challenging and refreshing. However, being in this life group helped me become more vulnerable even though it's uncomfortable at times. I've realized that I'm not alone and that I have friends to lean on when things are low and when things are high.
Sharon: Life groups has helped me realize that there is a group of people out there that choose to pursue my friendship no matter my flaws and inconsistencies. It's natural for me to run away when things get too deep or cause me to share personal burdens but having everyone around me be vulnerable allowed me to open up. This helped me gain more confidence in myself and in people in general.