“Jesus is powerfully attracted by the love and unity of His disciples. . . “

Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer

One of my favorite things in the world is to see women connect and encourage each other. I love sitting back and watching them exchange hugs at church, grab a sister’s hand, and offer a prayer. I believe that Jesus loves this, too. He promised us in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Our unity and love draws His attention and He joins us. How amazing is that?

Lately, I have had the worlds greatest seat for watching this happen at (in)courage through our new community groups. Last month we shared our vision of going beyond the blog post and connecting in smaller communities with like-minded women. We had over 1600 women join 38 groups. We watched them connect in a very real way through online communities. It has been beautiful to watch real needs for community being met. I asked two of the amazing women who lead our groups, to share a little bit about what has happened in their communities. We call them (in)couragers and I think you will see why:

Becky, (in)couraged Flockfor Ministry Wives :

When the opportunity came up to serve as an (in)courager, my heart was immediately drawn to ministry wives. I have been serving by my husband’s side for the past 15 years- 10 in youth ministry, 4 in an associate pastor role and this past year my husband has served as a senior pastor. We have been blessed in these years with accountability partners, mentors, encouragers, confidantes and life long friends. But we have also experienced the most heart wrenching seasons of our lives. Many ministry families struggle with burn out and I understand this. Having the opportunity to encourage other sisters on this same journey has been an incredible blessing for me- and an unexpected one. It is beautiful to see how God is taking my broken pieces and using them to bring glory to Himself. As our group encourages one another, I am continually amazed. I wish that I had a group like this when I started in ministry. This path can be so lonely and isolating, because in our desire to glorify God, we often feel that we must keep our hurts and our struggles to ourselves. Having a safe place to share these hurts and struggles has been a beautiful blessing!

Katie, (in)Able for moms of kids with special needs:

(in)Able is a group for mammas of kids with special needs. We currently rock 127 members, with more coming every day. I stood there the first day… waiting, unsure exactly of my role as co-leader. Kaylee and I are mammas with our own baggage. What would we bring to this group? Would we be what they need?

And then they came… pouring in like rain. Those mammas just walked right in and made themselves at home. Kaylee and I stood there and held the doors open to the Facebook group and just let them stream in. Mammas would check in, look around for a minute, and then launch into community with the fierce joy of having, for once, been INVITED and EXPECTED. They dug in started introducing themselves, using language only we fellow Special Needs mammas would understand. They posted pictures of their families, their kids, their service dogs. And we all cheered and cried and laughed for each other. Because we had found mothers who were walking the same, lonely, scary, bumpy road.

We were instantly connected.

Every once in awhile, Kaylee and I head back to the front doors and make sure they’re still propped wide open. We’ll check in on old stories, encourage with a verse, or  pray out loud. But this group is a church, deep and wide. Communion happens at all hours. We’re just the greeters.

And blessed to be so.

Our first (in)courage community groups session ends next week. But no worries, we will open the doors wide again in February for round two. How could we not?

Q: Were you a part of an (in)courage community group? We’d love to hear your story too. Leave a comment and tell us what you loved about your group.

  • Kate S

    I emailed about joining a group because I wasn’t sure which group was the best fit for me. I also wasn’t sure whether any groups were in my geographic area. I never received a reply. I’m sorry I didn’t get to participate!

    • http://29lincolnavenue.com Stacey

      Kate I am sorry for the confusion. The majority of the groups were not based on geographic area, but on stage of life or interests. Many of our groups had women from different countries. How neat is that?

      I hope that next time you are able to find a group that works for you.

      Again, sorry for the confusion!

      • http://www.incourage.me LJ

        And Kate, stay tuned for our (in)real life meetups happening in April next year – the event specifically designed to connect women in person! More details are over here http://www.incourage.me/inrl-countdown

  • http://www.jennihh.bligspot.com Jenni Ho-Huan

    Would love to b part of one ! I live in Asia n feel it wouldn’t great to have something simar for women here! Pray with me to see if this is God-idea… My plate is already v full but then when it’s God things can fall in place!!
    Thanks sisters!

    • http://29lincolnavenue.com Stacey

      Jenni we would love that too! Keep us posted on how God leads you in the days ahead!

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  • http://MarinasKitchenTable.blogspot.com Marina Bromley

    I’ve loved the experience, not only encouraging “{relatively} empty nesting” women like myself, but being able to turn to them for prayer, and building safe and trusting relationships.
    It’s also been a blessing in my relationship with my formerly prodigal child, as with his blessing I’ve been able to share our HIStory, not forgetting how He has grown both of us through his years of wandering.
    Blessed indeed!

  • http://jessicajourneyat763.blogspot.com/ Jessica

    Oh what a blessing it has been to be a part of this experience! I’m continually amazed at how God uses this online space to connect us with one another. How great is our God! And how amazing are all of you!

    • http://29lincolnavenue.com Stacey

      ‘Sing with me “how great is our God” and all will see “how great, how great is our God!”‘ :)

      He loves connecting his daughters, I just know it!

  • Olivia

    I have had the pleasure of being one of the co-leaders of an Empty Nest group (Last Chick Out), and I participated in a couple of others. I’ve been going through a rough patch with my “prodigal son.” These (in)courage communities have been a blessing. it is so easy to believe the Enemy when he tells you that it is your fault that your child is straying from the way that he has been raised and falters from the church. I was lifted up in prayer and was shown that I am not alone–that other mamas have the same trials. I have made some friends with whom I have chatted frequently–and I’ve never met them except through this on-line community called (in)courage and through the Facebook communities that we have grown. We pray for each other, cyber-hold each other’s hands, swap stories, share laughter, offer each other a shoulder to cry on. I feel how God’s love is being shared among us. Being part of these communities has given me courage to “expand” and to take risks. I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into, but I applied and was accepted to be part of the “God-sized Dream Team” that Holley Gerth is leading. I am also stepping out in faith to establish my own photography business! I don’t know where God will take me on this journey, but this (in)courage community has my back!

  • http://www.arearrangedlife.com Miriam

    I remember the first day, standing on my porch. Glancing at my phone while kids ran while, I saw the words “special needs” and “(in)courage” on the SAME screen!!! My heart hit the clouds!!!!
    I am so grateful for this incredible school of ladies…walking together by faith as He works through our brokenness. He’s making something beautiful, really beautiful that I’m not sure we’d have – if not for the brokenness. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

    • http://29lincolnavenue.com Stacey

      Miriam now my heart just hit the clouds too! Thanks for sharing this. I know that we can connect powerfully in our broken places.

      Praying for you!

  • http://www.justtammie.com Tammie

    Unfortunately, I just got too busy with a new (wonderful) job that I didn’t get to check in with my group too often. :(

    Will you be looking for additional groups for the February round? I’m single (which fits nicely with the groups for single) but I also am the primary caregiver for elderly family members. I could totally use a community of incouragers built around that challenge!

    • http://29lincolnavenue.com Stacey

      That is a group we have thought of adding. Stay tuned!

  • http://www.justtammie.com Tammie

    Unfortunately, I really didn’t connect with my group very often. Mostly, it was my fault. I just started a new job and had to adjust to the schedule so fitting other new things in was tricky!

    Will you be looking for new groups next year? I joined a group for singles this time around but could really use a community built around women who are primary caregivers for elderly parents/grandparents or other relatives.

  • http://jessicapatay.wordpress.com/ Jessica Patay

    Hi there! One of MY favorite things in life, too, is watching women connect and encourage each other! It feeds my soul to see this happen!
    How do I get into the Special Needs Mammas group?? I would love to be a part of it. Thx.

  • http://jessicapatay.wordpress.com/ Jessica Patay

    I ABSOLUTELY love to see women get together and encourage each other!!
    How do I get into the Special Needs Mammas group? I have a son with Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. “Special moms” REALLY need to lift each other up!!

  • http://colleen-fromthefield.blogspot.com Colleen

    I am a member if the Lines in the Sand social justice group and have been so blessed to connect with other women who are passionate about big issues and struggle to see their role in the grand scheme of these battles. We’re not all passionate about the same things and our passions mean sometimes we see things from different perspectives. But our conversations, in my opinion have been inspiring and enlightening and supportive and I feel blessed to have sisters with whom I can walk. Kudos to our moderators who have given generously of themselves to grow our little community.

  • http://preciouspagesbypaula.blogspot.com/ Paula McLane Jennings

    I have been a member of (in)design and I have loved it. What a great group of prayerful women. I have had some struggles during this time and could always count on the prayers and support of this wonderful group of friends.

  • lisa

    I did join a group, and while I have enjoyed it, I’m really hoping that next time, there are groups by geographical location. I like making on-line friends, but I’m really seeking those I can connect with in-person.

  • Anonymous

    I did join a group, and while I have enjoyed it, I’m really hoping that next time, there are groups by geographical location. I like making on-line friends, but I’m really seeking those I can connect with in-person.

    • http://www.incourage.me Lisa-Jo@incourage

      Be sure and stay tuned then for our (in)real life meetups happening in April next year – the event specifically designed to connect women in person! More details are over here http://www.incourage.me/inrl-countdown

  • Charissa

    I joined the (in)motherhood group – what an *amazing* blessing. There are not too many moments during the day that a new Mom has to herself – and I have been treasuring mine knowing that I could pop onto facebook and connect with my other mommas in the group. We have blessed each other with prayer, encouragement, shared situations / experiences, photos and advice. It has been an amazingly wonderful blessing. I am so sad to see it end!

    • http://29lincolnavenue.com Stacey

      The groups are not “ending” , resting a little during December & January. More details are coming this week in your groups.

    • http://crystalstine.blogspot.com Crystal

      Charissa, we have loved having you in the group! Y’all knocked our socks off with your love for Jesus, your families, and one another. And don’t we all feel like a bunch of proud aunts with all the new little babies we welcomed? I don’t think I can ever explain to each of you how you’ve changed my life and my heart. Thank you for taking a risk and joining us! And yes, like Stacey said, even though the first “session” might be coming to a close, our group doesn’t need to :) Mary Beth & I will share more with you soon!

  • http://frommyteacup.blogspot.com Tammy

    I loved my groups and I am sad they are coming to an end. I have met some lovely ladies.

  • http://fromthethoughtgarden.blogspot.com/ Jessica Suggs

    I’ve been part of the Working New Moms Group and can’t begin to tell you what an encouragement this group has been for me. With working full time I’ve had a difficult time connecting with other new moms in my hometown. This group of women has become my community, my new mom’s group and my support system. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without these amazing ladies. I’m hoping we can keep the group going even when the groups “break” for the season. Thank you for making this group possible!

    • Amanda

      You make me smile so big, Jessica!! :) It has been so great getting to know you in our group. You have been such an encouragement to US! :)

  • http://www.laurapratt.blogspot.com Laura

    I am part of the Marriage and Mommyhood group and it has been a wonderful experience. There has been so much encouragement. Kayse and Rebecca have been great leaders. Friend were definitely made and I can’t wait for session 2 to start next year.

  • http://www.missindeedy.com Missy

    Oh My Word – the joy that this (IN)courage Special Needs Mama’s Group of ladies has brought to me this past two months, is amazing! We get each other. And those doors are always open for us to praise and pray right alongside one another. Such a beautiful gift this online community has been. Thank you for launching this. And thanks to all of the willing Greeting Hearts that stand at each of the group’s virtual doors.

  • http://www.missindeedy.com Missy

    Hmmm, not sure where the comment went. But I know one thing for sure: these online (IN)courage community groups were a Godsend. Truly. Our Special Needs Mama’s group has become a family. We get each other. A family that praises and prays right alongside one another lifting each other and our families right Up. I am So Very Grateful that you launched this idea a few months ago.

  • Kari

    I co-lead with Erica G(ok she does most the leading) :) the lines in the sand: social justice group, and have to say I have been blessed by these woman beyond measure. They amaze each day and open my mind to so many beautiful things that people are doing around the world. The truely are encouraging, and I am forever grateful for all these beautiful woman! Thank you for the oppurtunity!

  • http://barefooton45th.com Lesley

    I missed info about these community groups but can’t wait to learn more in February. Has their been a group for women who are caregivers/women supporting a family member through cancer? If not, I’d be interested in helping start one.

    • http://29lincolnavenue.com Stacey

      We will add this to the list of possible new groups! Thanks Lesley!

    • http://peculiartreasure73.blogspot.com.au Lizzy

      There is group for chronic illness. We have a few members who are caregivers there.

  • Libby

    I co-lead (in) This Season with Lindsey -for women in ministry who have or are going through tough times. It was a God-sized dream He put on our hearts and it has been a HUGE blessing to me personally. We get each other, we are there to pray for and encourage each other in ways not many others can. So thankful for these women! I’m thankful for this beginning and looking forward to more as we continue to develop these friendships and welcome more in the new year!

    • http://lindseyvanniekerk.blogspot.com Lindsey van Niekerk

      Right with you, girl! Loved it!

    • Anna Marie Hopewell

      I have LOVED being a part of this group Lobby! Both you and Lindsey have encouraged us, prayed for us and understood some of the unique challenges I’ve faced as a missionary serving overseas. Thank you for having an open heart and willing ears. Looking forward to the next session x

  • http://www.cleverlymolli.com Mollianne

    I love, Love, LOVE my {relatively} Empty nNest group. I joined shortly after my daughter moved back home with her teenaged boys. Having a safe place to voice prayer concerns, share about husband/children/in-laws/grands/etc. has been very good for me. For the first time, I feel like I truly have an online community…women in the same season of life with some of the same hopes and dreams facing some of the same disappointments and discouragements as I do. This was an answered prayer for me. I can’t thank {in}courage enough for this group!

  • http://pathofauthenticity.wordpress.com Emilie R

    I have been a part of [in] This Season. I want to give a shout out to Libby and Lindsey who have done an AMAZING job leading. It’s been so encouraging to meet with other women in ministry who are dealing with difficult situations. It’s been So good to talk, share safely, and pray for each other. To be in a group of women who get it, which is very rare. I am so thankful for this group.

    • http://lindseyvanniekerk.blogspot.com Lindsey van Niekerk

      We love you, baby girl! It has been our pleasure! And we feel the same thanks for you!

  • Kristie Nanes

    I’m a single, empty-nester with a chronic illness :) I’d love to participate next time..even in a group that meets in person. God bless all you lovely ladies!

  • Anna Marie Hopewell

    I have LOVED, Loved being a part of this group Libby! Both you and Lindsey have encouraged us, prayed for us and understood some of the unique challenges I’ve faced as a missionary serving overseas. Thank you for having an open heart and willing ears. Looking forward to the next session x

  • http://www.frugalandfocused.com/ Janet

    I have been a part of the (in)design creative community and I love it. It’s been wonderful to get to know other ladies who seek to bring glory to God through their creative work. They have been encouraging, inspiring, prayerful and supportive. I am so thankful I’ve gotten to know these ladies through this community and look forward to continuing our connection.

  • http://www.terilynneu.com Teri Lynne Underwood

    Oh my! The unmasking motherhood group led by Eryn and Stefanie was fabulous! What a great group of (in)couragers and women who are serious about being real and honest … not just about the yucky parts of mothering but also about sharing the VERY real gifts and blessings we gain on this parenting journey! I am so thankful to have been a part of this group!!

    And special thanks to Eryn & Stefanie who moderated and loved on us with such incredible joy and grace!

  • Marie Krum

    I would be so encouraged to be part of a group of older Christian women. My daughters are both grown women with independent lives. My heart, spirit and intellect are alive and active in the joy of the Lord although I am hampered physically. I wondered if there might be a place for me to fit in with an “Encourager” group. Jehovah has been so gracious to develop insight into His word in my life and growth in His Holy Spirit as I experience His sovereign power in many life circumstances. I would hope to share His grace and mercy with other woman experiencing those times of trial and triumph. Please would you contact me with information about making that happen. Thank you. Marie

  • http://www.southerngirlsheart.com/ Ashley Ditto

    A beautiful, true post! Amen!!

  • http://www.choosehopetoday.com Karen

    This is wonderful! My heart too is to be in community with other women as an encourager (as well as I get filled up with love and support from community!).
    I would love to lead an incourage community group for either women newly diagnosed with breast cancer or breast cancer survivors- or maybe it’s a combined group. I am a two time breast cancer with a heart to love-on, encourage, inspire and empower other women by sharing my journey full of life lessons and blessings along the way. Please let me know how I can plug into this when new groups start up in February! Karen