After a Via de Cristo weekend, participants are encouraged to form or join an accountability group. In this group, we meet on a regular basis to discuss our plans for growing in God’s grace. Since a balanced Christian life includes piety, study and action, group members take turns talking about how they are doing in each of these areas. To mature as a Christian, we must practice spiritual disciplines. Disciplines that increase our piety include:
- Congregational worship and communion
- Morning offering/evening thanks
- Devotions, meditation and prayer
- Examination of conscience
- Altar or chapel visits
- Family prayer
- Blessings before meals
- Spiritual direction
Maybe you’re not even sure what some of these mean. I didn’t before my weekend. (That may be the topic for another post). Maybe you think it sounds a little mechanical, or even legalistic (Those are dangers, for sure. It is possible to become a “routine Rita” simply doing Christian things without really thinking about what they mean). However, like any other support group, banding together with others who want to go in the same direction helps us keep on track. Knowing I have to “weigh in” next week encourages me to complete the task/s I’ve assigned myself. It is also an opportunity to hear what works for others, and it’s helpful to learn all the creative ways my friends have learned to pray, to get recommendations for devotionals and just be held up in prayer.
At the end of the piety section there is a question to answer: “What was the moment you felt closest to Christ?” Maybe it was during a worship service; maybe it was listening to a favorite hymn or song; maybe it was an insight that seemed God-sent during prayer; maybe it was a simple feeling of gratitude for time with family. Sometimes I wonder if I would even notice these moments of grace if I didn’t have my reunion group meeting to make me think about them each month.
You don’t have to go on a Via de Cristo weekend to practice piety. You do need others, though. It’s too hard to go it alone. Find a friend or friends. Pray together; study together; talk about our Christian walk; laugh and cry and vent when you need to; do ministry together. You won’t regret it, and you’ll look back years later to see where all that practice has led. It will be higher ground.
God loves you and so do I!
Those who participate in a Via de Cristo retreat weekend are encouraged to continue growing in faith by forming “reunion groups.” You may be more familiar with the term “accountability” group. I’ve been a member of small groups like this on and off for over 25 years.
The group I am in right now meets once a month, at our church. We begin with prayer. Each member takes a turn talking about how they are doing in the areas of piety (prayer, worship, confession and other spiritual disciplines), study and action … in other words, how are things between me and God? Practical suggestions and help are sometimes offered by members of the group, but the intent is not to solve problems. Instead it is a safe place to share burdens, request prayer support and be held accountable. We each leave the session with a plan to help us persevere and deepen our faith until we next meet.
Over the years, groups change or end, but the friendships made there last forever. My reunion group sisters have encouraged me and given me the confidence to do things I would never have attempted on my own (for example, this blog). They have been the voice of Christ to me many, many times.
If you’re not in such a group, start one! It’s really not rocket science. Just find a couple of Christian friends who truly want to grow in their faith and knowledge of God; commit to meeting on a regular basis; share with one another; pray together– then sit back and see what God can do! You won’t be disappointed.
Years ago the Via de Cristo accountability group I was in spent time discussing our prayer life. One fellow in our group shared how each morning, he played a CD of favorite worship music. He paid close attention to the words as well as the music and considered it a time of prayer. That was eye-opening for me! Music as prayer!
I took his advice and starting playing Christian music on Saturday as I cleaned the house. Soon a time of drudgery was transformed into a peaceful place of communion with God. I encourage others to try this — listen to music when you’re doing mindless chores, driving, or just taking a break. Speak to God in the words of the song, and let Him touch your heart in the same way. God doesn’t care how we talk to Him, He just wants us to do it.
“…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” Ephesians 5:18-20
Have any of our authors or readers also used music this way? Tell us about your experience.
If you attend a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend, you will be encouraged to continue growing in Christ by participating in what’s called a reunion group. This is a small group that meets on a regular basis (monthly, weekly, whatever you choose) to talk about how things are going in the spiritual life of the members.
I have been in a reunion group on and off for over twenty years. The groups change, of course, as people move or their life changes. The group I am in now meets at our church once a month, and each month we discuss an aspect of our Christian walk: piety (this covers things like prayer, worship and moments of closeness to Christ), study or action. Each of us has an opportunity to tell how we’ve been doing in that area and what our plans are for the coming month. We encourage one another and hold each other accountable. We pray together and we pray for each other.
Over time being in such a group together fosters strong bonds. It was my first group that taught me being quiet and shy didn’t mean I couldn’t be a leader and influence others for Christ. The group I am in now started this blog!! My reunion group sisters are the kind of friends who will support me, encourage me and jump in to help if I take on a commitment! They hear my confessions and keep my confidences. Through the years in reunion groups I have helped to plan congregational activities, organized small group Bible studies, participated in “crafty” projects (that one is a real stretch for me), and had fun in the process. Rightly lived, a reunion group becomes a Christian community affecting the world.
If you’re not in a group like this, don’t put it off, it’s too important. You don’t have to go on a Via de Cristo weekend; you don’t have to call it a reunion group; you don’t have to do things exactly as we do. The point is to find a group of others who want to direct their lives to Christ and grow in faith. Meet regularly, pray together, encourage one another, work together for Christ and hold each other accountable. In years to come you’ll look back and be amazed at what God has done through you and how you have grown in faith together.
I hope our readers and my sister bloggers will join in by discussing this further. Have you been in a reunion group (or a similar accountability group)? How did it impact your spiritual growth? I want to hear your stories.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us knot give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10: 24-25