Fishing – the first LifeGroup

It all began with a soft-spoken carpenter and three fishermen.

Simon Peter, James and John were having absolutely no luck. As Simon Peter put it, “We’ve worked all night and haven’t caught anything.” For guys who made their livelihood catching fish, this qualified as a very bad day.

But Jesus told them, “Try casting your nets on the other side.” Now, nobody would have blamed the three anglers for laughing at the Lord. After all, what would a guy who made tables and chairs know about catching fish?

Of course, the rest, as they say, is history. They caught so many fish that their boats began to sink. The three fisherman were astonished and fell at the feet of Jesus, who replied, “From now on, you’ll be fishing for souls.”

And with that, the very first LifeGroup was formed.

You see, Jesus knows something about human nature. He understands that we are not designed to live alone. God made us to thrive in community with other believers. Our faith grows in amazing ways when we do life together in the name of the Lord.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

— Hebrews 10:24-25

Let’s take a look at a few LifeGroups at Crossroads, and the impact they’re having on God’s people.

Food for hungry souls

Here at Crossroads, LifeGroups are quickly becoming the heartbeat of our church. Like food to our bodies, biblical community is vital to our growth. LifeGroups are the friends you live, laugh and serve with.

In fact, ask almost anybody in a Crossroads LifeGroup how they feel about their time with others, and you’ll get much the same answer — LifeGroups make a difference.

Tonya Krueger and Lisa Adams lead a LifeGroup called “Nourish,” which gathers together to make delicious, low-cost meals that can be frozen and eaten when it’s convenient. They’re microwave dinners — only far less expensive, much better for you, and seriously scrumptious.

Having quick-to-make meals at the ready is a huge help to families, but the bigger bonus comes from the girl time. “Nourish” is the perfect getaway for busy moms.

“Our group is a safe husband-free, kid-free zone,” Tonya says. “It’s a fun, casual atmosphere where we have deep spiritual and emotional conversations.”

Many of those conversations are sparked by audio devotions, to which the ladies listen as they cook. Nourish members are encouraged to bring friends, and the group has grown so quickly that it had to be split — they couldn’t fit in one kitchen.

The “multiplication” or eventual splitting of LifeGroups is something that God placed on the heart of Bob Castelline, Director of Discipleship and Outreach at Crossroads.

“One of the best ways to grow LifeGroups is to be intentional about multiplication,” Bob says. “We hope and pray that leaders within our LifeGroups will keep an eye open for other potential leaders and encourage them to take flight. Nourish has really been a model to show us how well that can work.”

Help for the hurting

In Jesus’ time, His disciples endured some tough times. The Roman empire cast a long shadow on the world, and Jews were persecuted regularly. The disciples lived with Jesus and grew in faith, relying on their Lord and each other for support.

Some LifeGroups at Crossroads serve a similar purpose. Arnie DeWaard facilitates a group called “Joy,” which provides love, support and faith-based guidance for people who struggle with depression.

“The most satisfying thing to me is watching God change people’s lives,” Arnie says.

One participant in Arnie’s group was having a particularly difficult time dealing with life issues. For the first several meetings, those struggles were evident. But over time, Arnie says, the support and love from the group began to take hold.

“This person seems to have turned it around,” Arnie says. “The LifeGroup was a big part of that turnaround.”

Real men may not eat quiche ...

(but they share their feelings)

While slogging through the daily challenges of home, work and community, many men find it difficult to identify anything they do as “courageous.” Yet these are the very battlefields where courage is demanded of them every single day.

The men in “Stepping Up,” a video-based LifeGroup, have answered the call to courageous manhood. By honest evaluation of their own masculinity, these men are becoming the husbands and fathers that God designed them to be.

The growth in each man, some of whom had no strong male role model growing up, has been spectacular.

“Guys who wouldn’t say two words in the beginning have begun to open up and share their lives,” says Bob Castelline, facilitator for the group. “God’s work in these men is truly remarkable.”

Through this series and by leaning on each other, God has shown the men what it takes to lead a family.

“We men know in our hearts what needs to be done, but something steps in the way and keeps us from doing it,” Bob says. “This series has helped us identify the things that rob us of our courage, and it points us toward the Lord to overcome those fears.” 

The 10-week series has run its course, but Bob plans to hold it again — and again, if necessary.

“It really is that important,” Bob says. “I’ll offer it as much as needed. I’d love to see every man at Crossroads go through it.”

Bible study ... and more

It might be easy to think that LifeGroups aren’t really bible studies. While it’s true that not every LifeGroup revolves around studying the word, rest assured — there are plenty of great opportunities to go deeper, if that’s your desire.

“Promise Keepers,” a men’s bible study, has been meeting for nearly 15 years. Every other Wednesday morning, the group gathers over breakfast at Perkins in south Des Moines for a closer look at God’s word.

Pastor Glen has been attending PK, as it’s known, for its entire existence.

“It’s a safe place,” Glen says. “We come together, laugh a little, have a good meal together, and dig into the Word. That’s not to say we understand everything, but we share and receive biblical truths as God places them on our hearts. It’s not just the eggs and pancakes that feed us.”

Another bible study for women, called “Coffee Break,” meets Monday mornings at Crossroads, while “Prayer Warriors” meet Wednesday evenings to meet the prayer needs of the entire church.

Crossroads also has three LifeGroups for young couples, and all are thriving.

“This was a huge point of emphasis for us over the past year,” Bob says. “A dozen young couples have stepped up to enrich their marriages and lift up other couples through these groups, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.”

In fact, enough additional couples have expressed interest in being involved with a LifeGroup that another group may be formed soon.

“We’ll form as many groups as we need,” Pastor Glen says. “Every new couple joining a LifeGroup is a joy.”

Don't wait

Find a LifeGroup or say "yes"

It’s apparent — LifeGroups are the life blood of the Crossroads family. There are 13 LifeGroups going now, and you are welcome to become a part of one of the existing groups. For the complete list of LifeGroups at Crossroads, click here.

Over the next few weeks, our goal is to invite every Crossroads partner or frequent attender to be in a LifeGroup. The best thing you can do for yourself is to say, “Yes.”

“We aren’t designed to be lone wolves,” Bob says. “God has made each of us to thrive in community with other believers. LifeGroups are the friends you grow, laugh, and serve with.”

And what if you don’t see a group you like?

“Let me know,” Bob says. “I’ll sit down with you and help plan a new group. Bring me your ideas, what you’re interested in. We can make it happen. Nothing is impossible with God.”