Support Groups: Cultivating a Garden of Friendship
- Monday, May 16, 2011
Drought, Cold Snaps, and Weeds: Threats to the Garden
Miscommunication, gossip, and anger, common threats to relationships, were addressed directly in our operating policies and indirectly at our monthly meetings or through our newsletter. We did not want these weeds to strangle growing friendships. Disputes were to be settled in a timely manner, in love, according to the guidelines set forth in Matthew 18:15-20. Matters that could not be resolved by these guidelines were taken to the board.
The board followed the same guidelines. Board members encountering conflict with a member settled the issue with the member, not the board. Likewise, discord within the board was settled by the board. Church matters were settled through our staff representative. Proactive measures saved our garden from choking gossip, embarrassing miscommunication, and severed relationships.
Rains of Refreshment
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) Restoration, reflection, and prayer are vital to a community's spiritual health. We expected leaders to spend time in personal Bible study. To incorporate rest, we did not offer a group-wide December monthly meeting but rather scheduled a leaders' dinner for fellowship and prayer without the pressure of planning. Reflection and prayer time were also woven into our leaders' summer planning retreat. Refreshed leaders rain down nourishment on members, the sweet scent of fresh rain permeating the garden, bringing peace.
Fertilizer for the Future: Delegation
Shelley's vision for a bountiful harvest included delegating support group tasks. Delegation encouraged members to work side by side, inviting them to embrace the vision, giving them a sense of belonging, and training them for future leadership. Current leaders, the fruit of past delegation and fertilizer spread over the years, mentored new leaders. Past leaders linked arms with new leaders, embracing me as I mourned the loss of Shelley's friendship.
Harvest: Reaping What Was Sown
I reaped what I helped Shelley sow: friends who supported, encouraged, and prayed for me. Fourteen years, nine spent in leadership, cultivated a garden of friendship that grew beyond Shelley's vision to assist families whom God called to teach their children at home. Her vision supported her friend at the time of her death.
We all have gifts and talents, seeds that have the capability to grow beyond what we can comprehend, to sow blessings in the lives of others. As leaders and members it is our job to tend the support group garden—tilling, planting, watering, and praying as God leads us. Pray how God would have you sow in the community of families to which you belong. If you are not a part of community and God is tugging at your heart to plant a garden, pull out the hoe. One day you will reap from the harvest you sow.
* Name changed to protect the host church identity.
*This article published April 20, 2010.
Cheryl Bastian and her husband Mike have six children aged 20 to 3. Homeschooling since 1993, Cheryl organized and led a Central Florida support group, mentors current leaders, and remains active in the homeschooling community. As an author and speaker, Cheryl encourages parents to embrace the education and training of their children. Her books and resources are available at www.cherylbastian.com.
Cheryl Bastian penned the opening letter to her friends, the membership of the support group Shelley envisioned in the library, as a thank-you for the spiritual, emotional, and physical support they provided during the weeks after Shelley's death. The soil tilled during their initial meeting at the library grew to a support group blooming with love and vitality, meeting the needs of hundreds of families. The attendance at Shelley's funeral was a testimony to the many, many lives she had impacted over her years of service, leadership, and friendship.
Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Winter 2009/10. Used with permission. Visit them at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com. For all your homeschool curriculum needs visit the Schoolhouse Store.
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