Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weekly Therapy

My husband and I joined a Life Group at our church.  It's the hip thing to do at our church.  Basically a Bible study but better.  They try to limit it to about 10 couples or less.  The key is to make sure all the people in yours are serious about regular attendance.  It's a great way to meet people and get to know them in a "safe" environment.  We meet at someone's house, although a couple of groups meet at the church.  You can take turns hosting or if someone is willing and has the space, always meet at one house.  We have a carry-in dinner and eat first, then send the kids off with a babysitter in another room.  Get a good sitter.  Pay her well.  If your church doesn't have life groups, organize your own.  Now, there's usually a lesson plan to follow and good group discussion, but don't get overly discouraged if you get off topic.  Just steer back onto the subject and enjoy an opportunity for grown up conversation that is uninterrupted by kids!  I love that we have a carry-in.  Some groups sign up via email, that involves a lot of reading emails and keeping track of duplicates.  I recommend creating a group on facebook, provided you are all on facebook.  You can use it as your group bulletin board and make it private so only group members can see it.  Post sign-up lists for meals, prayer requests, and other general info.  It's a great way to communicate and not have to open several dozen emails a week.  This has become our weekly family night out.  We get to eat, our kids play with other kids, have adult conversation and over the weeks the group becomes very close.  It's like building an extended family and a great emotional support network.  I also belong to one for just mom's of young kids.  Love this one.  It's like group therapy.  We do Christian reading.  Sometimes we only spend 15 minutes on the topic, but there's always wonderful discussion and I've had a chance to build close relationships with some of them.  If you're new to the area or just don't have a chance to get out much this is such a great way to find new friends.  Plus it's inexpensive - you would be feeding your own family anyway.

A few rules if you're going to start your own group:
  • What happens in the group stays in the group.  VERY IMPORTANT!!  This isn't an opportunity to glean gossip fodder. 
  • Decide up front how you will pay the sitter.  Per kid, per family, equally divided between those with kids, etc.  Stick to the plan.  Don't change the rules in the middle of the game. 
  • Find a good sitter.  Remember others have different parenting styles, so you may love a sitter only to find others are not so fond of her -be willing to compromise.  I recommend finding a more mature teen, at least 16 if not college age (especially if you're in a college town).  
  • Set rules for the sitter up front: diaper clad children should be returned to their parents with clean dry pants, hands and faces cleaned after eating, interrupt only if there is blood shed or excessive crying after an injury.  You have a sitter so you can have uninterrupted conversation so make sure she/he can handle that.  
  • Have a back-up plan or rule for cancellation.  You don't want to get stuck eating salad and dessert because the person bringing the entree couldn't make it at the last minute.  
  • Create a phone/email list for the group.  
  •  Designate a group leader or someone who can facilitate the discussion.  
  • If your church doesn't have a program in place, let the group vote on a topic.  It can be directly from the Bible or other Christian reading.  There are many resources out there and many topics from marriage enrichment to parenting to financial planning.
By meeting with others in your faith, you can form close relationships and grow spiritually as well as personally.  Plus the chance to socialize with others on a regular basis is therapeutic.  I've seen people open up and share their concerns or fears about something to find they aren't alone and it's so uplifting to have honest conversations about life experiences and know you aren't alone in your thinking or the situation.  

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