Greg and Lindsey Ralston joined the McKinney family in the Spring of 2016, and right from the start, God began to give them a desire to reach their neighbors. Greg says, “The first Sunday sermon we attended together was from Chris on the topic of ‘neighboring’ and it had always stuck with us.” After getting married and attending another community group for a year, the Ralstons felt led to begin their own Community Group in their Ridglea neighborhood. The Immerse Messiah series was around the corner, and the Ralstons saw this as the perfect opportunity to grow their friendships and provide an environment where they could discuss Christ with those around them. This felt like a daunting step, as neither Greg nor Lindsey had ever led a group before. “There were plenty of good reasons for us to not start a group – or to push it to a later date. Lindsey had just gotten pregnant, and we felt that there was so much to be done before her due date. We were also nervous about the possibility of making our relationships awkward with our neighbors by inviting them to a group. But we finally came to the conclusion that there was never going to be a perfect time to do it, and we needed to just take the step and start the group.” To their surprise, however, both of the couples they invited to their group not only accepted the invitation, but were excited about joining the group! Not long after, two other individuals joined the group, and within several weeks, their neighborhood Immerse group began.
Although the Ralstons had little experience leading a group, God quickly began to work through them and provide through all the unknowns. “We feel like God used this group to draw our neighbors back into a church home. It allowed them to feel comfortable in a church setting.” Greg says, “We didn’t know the answer to every question, but when that situation would arise, 2 or 3 members of the group would commit to researching the question throughout the week and then revisit it the following week.” After the Immerse study came to a close, the group continued to meet- and still does to this day. “This group got us excited that God can use us together – as a couple – and this is something we can build on for the rest of our marriage. It’s given us the courage to know that if we can reach out to these friends, why can’t we do this with other people?”
To others who might be anxious about reaching out to their neighbors, Greg says, “Don’t be afraid to take the next step- don’t be afraid to fail. More often than not, you’ll be surprised about the positive reactions you’ll get from your friends and neighbors. We kept asking the questions, ‘What if this is something that will turn them away from wanting to hang out with us? Will it make things awkward?’ But those that we were most nervous about were the ones who were most excited about joining a group. Those friendships would have never taken place if we would not have asked. Even if someone says no, it’s probably not as bad as you’re working it up in your head. It just takes somebody reaching out and encouraging them to do it. There’s nobody better than a neighbor- they’re right there, and you see them every day. Don’t worry about their reaction, God will provide the response in their heart that He has planned. In our case, it was more than we could have asked for.”
These initial conversations are only the beginning, and Greg and Lindsey are excited for where God will take their group. Greg says, “We haven’t seen the end of this yet. This is just the beginning. I think God has some great things in store for this community group. It’s only been 6 months- and we’ve got a long time left.”