Does the idea of joining a LifeGroup make your heart race a little bit? What about the thought of setting boundaries in a friendship? Are you getting increasingly nervous and sweaty just reading this? This is for you.
We all crave healthy relationships, yet figuring out how to form them can sometimes be overwhelming. Whether it comes to starting friendships or maintaining them, things can sometimes get a little weird.
And that’s okay. We’ve all been there. You want to join a LifeGroup, but the idea of showing up to a random group feels super uncomfortable. You want to stop feeling like you’re in the middle of a one-sided friendship, but you also don’t want to have the conversation about it.
That’s why we sat down with two LifeGroups and LifeMissions Pastors—Kyle and Crissa—to have an open conversation about joining a LifeGroup, setting boundaries, and having healthier friendships.
Trust us—they’ve seen it all when it comes to relationships. Read below for some highlights, or listen to their full conversation on the You’ve Heard It Said podcast.
Is it okay to shop around for a LifeGroup?
Crissa: I tell people that joining a LifeGroup is kind of like dating. Sometimes you have chemistry and you’re on the same page, and sometimes you’re not clicking. The best thing is that everyone understands this is a process, so you won’t be hurting anyone’s feelings if you decide to pursue other groups.
Kyle: I think it’s important for someone who is looking for a LifeGroup to start by asking themselves what they’re really looking for and what they’re hoping to get out of this. Much like dating, joining a LifeGroup is not a covenant. It’s okay if this doesn’t actually work out.
You do, however, need to have a deep desire for meaningful relationships. Because it’s not a matter of whether bad things are going to happen, but when. So who do you want in your corner when those moments arise?
You want someone who’s going to show up and bring you a meal. Or people who will be there to cheer you on when you get a promotion. If you don’t have those people in your life, consider being willing to start a group to get people plugged in and grow those types of relationships you’re looking to build.
What do you tell the LifeGroup when you’re still not sure if it’s the group for you?
Crissa: I just think being upfront and saying, “Hey, I’m new, and I’m trying out a few LifeGroups to see what would work.” You don’t have to make a big deal about it—people do this all the time.
How do you make sure everyone feels comfortable to share at LifeGroup, especially if it’s a mixed gender group?
Kyle: I think checking your motivations and attitude before the group is a great start. Maybe just asking God what He wants you to get out of your LifeGroup today. And if you start recognizing that you’re showing up because you want to see that one guy or girl, it’s okay to acknowledge that, but be reminded in that moment that LifeGroup is time set apart for God to do what only He can do, and so checking our own motivations at the door can be a good start.
Crissa: I think also providing opportunity where opportunity is needed. So, if you’re going through a heavier topic or one that might feel uncomfortable for people to share in a mixed group setting, split up into guys and girls for that one, or consider pairing up if needed.
Is it okay to ever break up with a LifeGroup?
Crissa: I’ve done it. My husband and I started attending a LifeGroup when we were in our 20s without kids, and we were the babies of the LifeGroup. We loved it! Everyone was retired, and they took such great care of us. But when we got pregnant with our first daughter, we were the only ones not getting sleep and were just in a different season than everyone else. And so we really needed some people in a similar life stage to do life with.
The most important thing is to make sure you’re not running from something. Because your life changes and goes in seasons, but if you’re running from conflict or running to avoid something, you’re never going to escape it.
So, breaking up with a LifeGroup is normal. It happens. And it’s just having that honest conversation: “Hey, we love you guys. We are so thankful for the space you’ve given us to have community and grow. And in this season, we think we need something else.” And just be clear about what that is, whether it’s a change in schedule, a different life stage, moving, or whatever the circumstance is.
Just be honest, be grateful, and have the conversation.
Kyle: I’d hate for you to hear that you can leave any time a LifeGroup makes you mad. That’s not what we’re saying. Conflict is a great opportunity to grow, and you’ll never find a LifeGroup without conflict.
Something my wife and I like to use is the three-episode rule. When we’re picking a TV show, we’ll give it three episodes to decide whether to keep watching it or not. And I think you can do something like that with a LifeGroup. Give it the opportunity to breathe. Get to know the people a little bit. Then decide whether it’s the right fit for you.
And when it comes to leaving a group, just have a conversation with the LifeGroup leader first. Don’t just leave, but have that conversation. And at the end of the day, that leader just wants what’s best for you, and they may even have some great connections to help you find a LifeGroup that does work out for you.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to set boundaries in a friendship or in a LifeGroup?
Crissa: One specific friendship that I had to set boundaries with was with a friend in my LifeGroup. She was going through quite a few life events, and there was a lot on her plate at the time. When we would hang out, I was sort of her dumping ground, and it became a situation where she wasn’t necessarily looking for ways to become healthier. It started to have a negative effect on me every time we would hang out, and I would want to withdraw. It took a lot of prayer and consulting with other trusted friends before I was confident enough to sit down and have a conversation with her addressing the issues.
And I think one of the biggest misconceptions that I grew up with was that if you’re a Christian, you have to be nice. And I confused being nice with being healthy and having healthy boundaries.
But I realized that you can be honest with love and grace. It’s really hard, because someone’s feelings may get hurt, but I can only own what I can own. So we had a conversation about my boundaries, and it was really good for both of us.
Kyle: I had a friend I was super close with, and we ended up getting the opportunity to work together, which was obviously loads of fun—I mean, I got to work with my friend at work! But he was also my leader, and there came a point in our working relationship where boundaries needed to be put in place. We had to recognize and admit that our friendship was getting in the way of some of the heavy lifting we had to do in our jobs, so we ended up having some boundary conversations around it.
What are some ways having personal boundaries has helped you?
Kyle: I don’t think of boundaries as a bad thing. I’m a guy who loves clarity, and I think having boundaries creates clarity and consistency that people appreciate.
Crissa: I feel like boundaries actually give us freedom because they show us how far we can go, and there’s no ambiguity, so there’s freedom in that.
Can you give us examples of conflicts you’ve seen in LifeGroups or your own lives that have resulted from a lack of boundaries?
Kyle: Conflict is going to happen in any relationship—even ones with the greatest intentions. I think remembering that expectations may shift as the relationship or LifeGroup develops is a good way to go about preventing conflict. As leaders, we have to be the Chief Reminding Officers saying, “Hey, this is what we’re about. This is why we’re here. Are we all still on the same page?”
Crissa: My husband and I have experienced issues in our own LifeGroup where we’ve had to set boundaries—especially around parenting. When you get a family LifeGroup and you’re bringing parents and their children in, it can create friction and tension. You become aware of how you’re parenting versus how others parent. A lot of unstated expectations can be developed that can get messy. Setting healthy boundaries is a great way to prevent conflict.
How do you have healthy boundaries in a respectful way when a sensitive topic comes up at LifeGroup or in a group of friends?
Kyle: I think in those moments you might want to put yourself in that other person’s shoes. Are they there to prove a point, or are they actually looking for a healthy dialogue around a topic that matters? Do your best to try to read the room, because some topics are not appropriate for some contexts. Acknowledge the question, and the validity of asking the question, but consider having the conversation one on one if it feels appropriate.
Crissa: I think the biggest thing for me has been to learn to ask questions. I don’t need to share my opinion the entire time, but I want to understand why you’re asking me this. If you’re emotionally affected by it, and it’s touching your heart, God may be trying to pursue and confront something. A lot of people don’t actually know where I stand on a lot of things because I just continue to ask questions like, “Tell me about how that makes you feel.” Or, “What did that just bring up in you?” Or, “Why do you bring that up?”
What’s the best advice you would give to anyone to ensure they have a healthy LifeGroup or just personal boundaries in friendships?
Kyle: Be courageous. God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity but one of boldness, discipline, and a sound mind. Staying connected to Jesus means that we will bear fruit. If that’s the case, creating structure and boundaries in relationships will allow us to flourish and grow.
Crissa: If you were like me growing up and you thought boundaries were a negative thing instead of something that actually promotes freedom and understanding, I have quite a few books to recommend. There’s actually one called Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend that is actually really phenomenal.
Boundaries and relationships can be tough—we get it. But with prayer, good community, and intentionality, they are achievable! Jesus set boundaries with people He was in relationship with, and He loved them better as a result.
So, what’s your next step? Maybe it’s finding a LifeGroup and trying out the three-episode rule with it. Maybe it’s starting a LifeGroup so that other people have a safe place to grow and learn. Or maybe it’s having conversations with the friends in your life to have healthier boundaries. Whatever it is, ask God for the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it.