Seven Rhythms of a Healthy Community
By Collin Mayjack
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief the last few weeks of Practice in triads (15 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then talk through the following debrief questions:
What was it like for you working through the Ladder of Integrity? Were you surprised by any of the steps on the ladder?
Thinking back on the last four weeks of Practice, which Emotionally Healthy Relationship skill do you most want to work into your daily life? (Community Temperature Reading, Looking Beneath the Surface, Stopping Mind Reading, Clarifying Expectations, Listening, & Fighting with Integrity.)
What is one thing you have learned about Community over the last month?
Read this overview (5 minutes)
Many families have traditions. Maybe your family shares the same meal on Christmas morning each year, or goes to the same movie theater after dinner each Thanksgiving, or vacations in the same place each summer. On a smaller scale, many families also have habits. Whether its pizza night on Tuesdays, sharing gratitude around the dinner table, praying before bedtime, chores on Thursday, or a Friday night movie night. These traditions and habits, or “rhythms,” make up a significant portion of any family’s life together.
If Jesus’ vision for his community of disciples was for them to become a tight-knit, diverse, and loyal family, the question arises: what rhythms and habits exist in the family of God? Or, put more practically, what rhythms should my community adopt in our shared life together?
While there is no perfect answer to these questions, throughout church history we see the family of Jesus adopting seven rhythms: Celebration, Bearing Burdens, Confession of Sin, Hospitality, Eating Together (Communion), Prayer and Worship, and Generosity.
We’ve spent the last few weeks laying a foundation for relating to one another well with the skills from Emotionally Healthy Relationships. With these skills as our foundation, we begin now to explore practical outward rhythms and practices for growing together as a Community seeking after Jesus. This week’s Practice provides ideas for how to adopt the seven rhythms included above into the life of your Community.
Open the Bible together (5 minutes)
Take a few minutes to read the following passages of scripture out loud: Acts 2v42-47, Hebrews 13v1-2 & v16, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22, Galatians 6:2, and James 5:16.
Work through these discussion questions (10 minutes)
In the passages we just read, did any particular phrases or ideas stand out to you? If so, why?
Of these seven rhythms, which do you think our Community does well? (Celebration, Bearing Burdens, Confession of Sin, Hospitality, Eating Together (Communion), Prayer and Worship, and Generosity)
Of these seven rhythms, which would you be most excited for our community to explore further?
Do this Practice as a Community right now (30–40 minutes)
The goal of this week’s practice is to begin working some of all of the seven rhythms into your Community. Below we have included the seven rhythms and some basic instructions for how to give each rhythm a try. Pick one person to read the description of each rhythm. After all the rhythms have been read, decide as a Community a rhythm you would like to try together tonight and a rhythm you’d like to come back to in the weeks ahead. Some of these require more preparation than others, so don’t feel pressure to try them all at once. Within the instructions, we have included a note about how much preparation is required for a given rhythm. Feel free to take a few weeks over your next month together to try out rhythms you may not get to tonight.
There is always something to celebrate. Consider spending a night in celebration by having everyone share one thing that is good in their life right now, sharing a nice meal (bust out the good wine and favorite foods), celebrating a birthday with affirmations and cake, or going out for a night of fun together!
Spend a night allowing people to share what is difficult in their lives right now. You can do this as a large group or in groups of 3–4. Consider having each person answer the question, “what is one thing that is challenging or heavy in your life right now?” As people share, take time to stop and pray for them as needed. After someone shares, ask them the follow up question, “how can our Community support you?” As able, take steps to support them and meet needs.
Confession of Sin
Take a night to create space for confession of sin in your Community. While this does not take much preparation on a logistics level, there is a significant amount of preparation a Community must go through to handle confession well. Some guidelines for confession include:
Have a conversation about the nature of confession before diving into the act of confession. Ask question such as: What’s your experience with confession? What do you think the purpose of confession is? What’s scary about confession and what could be good about it? How could we make our Community a safe place for confession to happen?
Confession must be invited, not coerced. Make it clear that no one has to share anything they are uncomfortable sharing.
Confession ought to take place in smaller settings of 2–4 people.
Establish a rule of confidentiality
On a practical level, this could look like spending a few minutes practicing the Examen and then splitting into triads to confess sin and pray for one another.
Consider practicing hospitality as a Community in one of the following two ways: 1) Take a night off of meeting together and instead encourage each person in your Community to invite a friend or neighbor who does not follow Jesus over for dinner. 2) As a Community, throw a party, bbq, or game night and invite friends and neighbors who do not follow Jesus to join you.
Feel free to draw further ideas from our Practice on Eating & Drinking.
Eating Together (Communion)
If your Community currently does not share a weekly meal together, plan a night to share a meal. Include within that meal bread and wine (or grape juice!) and a time to pray and reflect on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus together.
If your Community does currently share a meal together, consider finding a way to practice Communion with greater intentionality. You can plan a more elaborate meal, adopt a regular liturgy to open your meal together, or rotate who leads Communion, allowing different people to open your time with prayer, reflection, or scripture of their choice each week. If you’re in a rut or communion tends to look one way for you, consider exploring different aspects of communion.
Feel free to draw further ideas from our Practice on Eating & Drinking.
Prayer and Worship
Consider taking part of a night (or all of a night!) to pray and/or worship together. At the simplest, you can split into groups of 3–4 and ask one another, “what is one thing you need prayer for?” and then pray for one another. You can spend a night revisiting a particular form of prayer (listening prayer, imaginative prayer, etc.). Or you can spend time in worship by having someone lead your Community in song, or simply have each person share something they are grateful for in life right now.
Feel free to draw further ideas from our Practice on Prayer.
There are lots of ways for your Community to practice generosity. A few of these ideas include: 1) Open up the floor to your community by asking, “Does anybody have a financial or practical need that our Community could help meet?” If someone shares, create space for people to offer contributions to meet that need. 2) Plan a night in which people bring extra money they are able to donate to needs in or outside of your Community. When you come together, decide on a need inside or outside of the Community to give that money to. And 3) Adopt a monthly “Rice & Beans Night”. By choosing a simpler, less expensive meal, members of your community can choose to bring the money they would have spent on a more elaborate meal and instead donate that money to a local nonprofit or to someone in need in your Community.
Work through these discussion questions before you call it a night (5 minutes)
What did you like about the rhythm we tried tonight?
Which of these rhythms comes most naturally to you? Which comes least naturally?
What preparation is required for the next rhythm we are going to try together?