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Book’s mountain-climbing theme focuses on small groups

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Have you become frustrated with the people in your small-group Bible study or accountability group? Try climbing to the top of Mount Everest with them.

For some people, participating in a small group feels like a long struggle to the top of a mountain. Personalities in the group don’t click well, distractions throw everyone off course, and ultimately, team members stop caring about the group and want to go home.

This concept inspired John Trent and coauthors Eric Tooker and Rodney Cox to write the book, “Leading from Your Strengths: Building Intimacy In Your Small Group.” It is the second book in the “Leading from Your Strengths” line from Broadman & Holman of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Trent is the national spokesman for Ministry Insights, a company designed to strengthen Christian groups and provide leaders with resources for ministry. He has authored and coauthored more than a dozen books and has spoken at seminars and Promise Keepers conferences across the country.

The first Leading from Your Strengths book compared building close-knit ministry teams to taking a whitewater rafting trip. Now, Trent, Tooker and Cox have built a book around the journey of five climbers trying to reach the top of Mount Everest.

Focusing on the triumphs and hardships of the climbers, the book relates their journey to the dynamics of a small group. The book also includes a four-week study on building intimacy in a group.

In today’s come-and-go society, building lasting relationships in small groups often becomes a frustrating challenge. “In part, that’s why we picked up the metaphor of a mountain climbing expedition that flows throughout this book,” Trent, Tooker and Cox write. “Not that we’re saying closeness and caring in your small group is as hard to reach as scaling Mount Everest, but you can learn many lessons from expert climbing teams.”

Intimacy, they write, is the “pinnacle of human relationships.”

“By committing yourself to a small band of brothers and sisters, equally serious about their faith and genuine friendships, you can absolutely see lives transformed, hurts healed, and a God-honoring future become more real than ever before,” the authors write.

Some members of the book’s climbing team definitely have issues. “Dan” is distant and meticulous with his gear, overzealous “Matt” keeps trying to charge up the mountain on his own and easy-going “Jan” wants to have a “yak-chip throwing contest.” As the team nears the summit, commitment to each other and their goal become critical to reaching the top.

In order to reach intimacy, a group must establish honesty, trust, acceptance and closeness, with Trent, Tooker and Cox describing a lasting small group as more than an average “dinner club or playgroup.”

Whether people admit it or not, most everyone is starving for deep, committed relationships. And like accepting the risks of losing fingers and toes on Mount Everest, small-group members must be willing to sacrifice their own agendas, the authors write.

“Building intimacy, like anything else worth having, is hard work,” they note. “It will cost you something. But the cost of not building intimate relationships is greater.”

Everyone can learn a thing or two about sacrifice by studying Jesus Christ’s life and how He loved others, the authors write, noting, “Jesus took hundreds and hundreds of rules and regulations found in the law and boiled them down into two commandments: Love God and love people.”

This hesitancy to commit and cross the line beyond “surface” relationships can become the “silent killer of many relationships,” Trent, Tooker and Cox write.

“We all are great fakers,” they write. “You are friendly with them, but are you a friend or merely an acquaintance? … Do you share any of the secret places of your life with them? Usually not.”

Though you may not form lifelong friendships with everyone in your group, there still should be an atmosphere where intimacy is “valued and nurtured,” the authors write.

“The deeper the relationships, the more the church begins to look like family.”
For more information on leading small groups or John Trent and Ministry Insights, go to www.leadingfromyourstrengths.com. “Leading from Your Strengths: Building Intimacy In Your Small Group” is available at LifeWay Christian Stores or online at www.lifewaystores.com.

    About the Author

  • Shawn Hendricks