Encouragement & Real Stories of Changed Lives

Full of new ideas, insights, and inspiration.

Nobody's Perfect

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I once had a conversation with a good friend who was struggling with what to tell her daughter about Christianity.

“How can I encourage her in that direction when there are so many Christians who do bad things? Christians who are hypocrites?”

My response was to remind her that nobody is or ever has been perfect, except Jesus. While I believe this to be truth, my words still seemed to ring hollow. What she wanted to hear was that Christianity makes one perfect, makes the world in which we live perfect -- and therefore safe -- for her beloved child.

I heard a yearning for perfection in her words and in her heart.

The “nobody’s perfect” theme is one we tell ourselves every day, especially when we’re parenting children. As moms, we’re told we need to embrace the messiness of life. The imperfection. The errors. The chaos. Especially if we want to raise children who are okay making mistakes, trying new things and taking risks.

Recently, I read an enlightening article by Sandy Blackard, author, parenting expert and founder of Language of Listening, entitled “How to help a perfectionist child.” Blackard takes a new spin on the subject of "perfect."

I know it may sound backwards, but from a perfectionist child’s point of view, being told it is OK to mess up, show emotion and not care what her friends think, is telling her she is wrong to be herself, even if that is not your intention. Acceptance is the missing element in shifting perfectionism from an anxiety-ridden malady to a gift of excellence. Once she knows it’s OK to be the way she is (no matter what that is), she can naturally start to relax about it.

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Chip and Joanna Gaines "Love" Where They Live

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Have you ever asked yourself what you would do with your life if money were no object? If someone challenged you to “better where you live,” how would you go about it?

A squeal was heard through out my house. What to my wondering eyes should appear? Two VIP tickets to be with Chip and Joanna Gaines for the late October weekend known as “Silobration.”

I quickly called my sister. Thister is what I call her, especially when excited.

“Thister, do you want to go meet Chip and Joanna?” More squeals heard throughout another house.

“Are you serious? Of course I do!” Thister exclaimed.

Waco, Texas, here we come!

Chip and Joanna are the stars of the HGTV show “Fixer Upper.” If you’ve ever watched “Fixer Upper,” you not only admire the Gaines’ hard work and creativity, you fall in love with the couple themselves. They are crazy-talented, hilarious, respectful of one another, lovers of their family, compassionate toward others, mindful of their city and God-honoring.

And Silobration? Years ago, Joanna kept a notebook filled with her dreams and desires. One of her dreams was opening a retail store of home goods reflecting her personal and unique style. When Chip learned about the notebook, he asked her to tell him one of her dreams. Then, in typical Chip fashion, he encouraged her to go for it!

“Let’s do this,” he said.

Together, they have checked off project after project one by one. Silobration was the celebration of opening a large-scale retail store in the iconic silos that define downtown Waco, the couple’s current hometown.

The silos project was about investing in their Texas town and the people who live there. Chip and Joanna have bought “stock” in loving where they live and living where they love. They aren’t looking to move to a better spot. They are bettering the spot where they live!

My sister flew from Ohio. I flew from Georgia (with an expired driver’s license…but this is another long story…have I ever told you that I pride myself in being super organized…never). We landed in Dallas. And drove to Waco. Lots of giggling. Lots of stories. No time restraints. Eating out. It was a girl’s weekend for sure.

The Silobration evening was filled with excitement and fun. Chip “repelled” down the silos for a grand entrance to formally welcome the 2,000+ guests to the property and to introduce the band, Johnnyswim. Twinkling lights, picnic tables, lawn games, pottery demonstrations, food trucks, music, the bubbly personalities of their staff and the Magnolia Market store made the night an amazing experience!

“We’ve always given credit and glory to God,” Chip said. “This is a testament to hard work, dedication, family and faith.” Joanna added, “With God and a man like Chip, I knew I had the wind in my sails to accomplish something much bigger than I even dreamed.”

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, has said, “What would happen if you left a city? Would the impact be noticed? Have you made the kind of difference that if you moved away, it could actually be recognized?”

There is no doubt that what Chip and Joanna dreamed of many years ago is impacting their city. Their hearts are huge and generous towards others. They have deep roots of compassion and kindness. Their faith in God is shown as they “work with all their heart, as working for the Lord, not for man.”

Most of us will never have large financial resources, but we do have the resource of time and God’s heart to develop relationships and initiate friendships with the people who live right next door. Share a meal, plant flowers, offer babysitting, give a ride, sit with a widow, the list can go on and on. Perhaps the Lord was creative enough to place you exactly where He wanted, to love those who need His love. Maybe all we need to do is ask Him how He wants us to do that. Maybe He could give us the perfect way to “better where we live” and to love where we live.

So I am pondering this question, if I left my neighborhood or city or workplace, would it be noticed? What impact am I making? How about you? Drop us a note to let us know how you are investing in your city or neighborhood. We would love to hear from you. Or at least tell me a story of “someone” you knew who let her driver's license expire!

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Joan, lover of McDonald’s cokes, is happiest when her home is filled with her husband and four children. She reports that her two college-aged boys come home whenever she offers to cook steak. Her only claim to fame is the week she got every piece of clothing laundered and matched all 126 socks. She had a dream when she was in college that Jesus returned to gather up the Christians to go to Heaven. Except one of her roommates asked her why she never told her about God. She woke from the dream with a lifelong desire to share with others the amazing news of God’s love and forgiveness.

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I Wasn’t Looking for Jesus: Missy's Story

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Her couch is stained with peanut butter and jelly, little hands having made smears that somehow she’s overlooked. Toys are scattered everywhere. Her house is in its usual state of disarray, the kind caused by a busy family with young kids. Her neighbor has asked to meet with her today. She wonders what the woman must be thinking about the chaos she’s just stepped into, but it doesn’t seem to faze her. She kicks off her shoes and plops down beside the young mom on the family room floor, cross-legged, as the little ones crawl and play around them. There is no judgment in her eyes, just love, and a peace and aliveness that radiates from somewhere deep within her. She’s on fire. The young mom doesn’t quite understand it, but she thinks to herself, “I want what she has.” 

As they begin to chat, the neighbor asks about the young mother’s spiritual journey. Sheepishly, she replies that she doesn’t really have one. She doesn’t know that much about God, and she doesn’t go to church. She’s not looking for Jesus on this crisp October day, but apparently He’s looking for her. 

When I first attended a neighborhood Bible study at Debbie’s house in 1999, I thought it was one of the weirdest things I’d ever experienced. After the study, which focused on the love of Christ, I pulled aside the friend who had invited me.

“Was that just the weirdest thing?” I whispered. “I mean we’re from the Midwest! We don’t talk about religion and Jesus and all that stuff, right?”

Of course, my friend seemed to think it was entirely normal. I was intrigued by this gathering of women, but not particularly interested in the Bible part. As a brand-new stay-at-home mom with two young daughters and a recent transplant to Georgia, I just wanted to make friends and get to know my neighbors.

I wasn’t looking for Jesus.

Several months later, Debbie asked to meet with me, and we had that moment on my family room floor when she asked if I’d like to know God personally. I was terrified. I remember thinking, “I already do,” but then having a sinking feeling that maybe I didn’t. Here I was, so lost, and I didn’t even know it. She explained the spiritual principles of God’s love and forgiveness to me and led me in a prayer to ask Christ into my heart and life. I did it more for her than myself, but God met me right where I was.

Debbie told me that day was an important date – October 4, 2000 – and to write it in my Bible. I confessed that I didn’t have a Bible. Before I knew it, I found myself in a Christian bookstore with a 50 percent off coupon she’d given me, selecting my very first Bible.

I figured I wasn’t going to read it very much – I’m not much of a reader – so I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on it. I found one on sale, used my coupon and paid about $3 or $4 for it. I brought my new Bible to our next meeting and proudly showed Debbie the cover.

“Look, I got one written by Marcus D. Thorntnton Sr.! He’s the author of this Bible,” I said.

She realized that I must have gotten such a good deal because the cover was engraved with a misspelled name! “Well, who is the author?” I asked. She explained to me that God is the author the Bible, not Mr. Thorntnton.

I came knowing nothing, and I mean nothing, but at our neighborhood Bible study, I felt comfortable speaking up and asking questions when I didn’t understand. I would never have thought to attend a church at that time in my life, but I felt comfortable going to Debbie’s house, making friends and learning alongside the people I lived life with.

I really went looking for relationship, and I found the greatest relationship I can or ever will have – my relationship with Christ.

Debbie never pushed me. She just stood by me, and when I took a step, she took a step. I learned years later that before I’d even moved into the neighborhood, Debbie had prayed over my house. She prayed that someone whose heart would be opened to Christ would move in there.

That someone was me.

I developed a great passion for God’s Word during that time, and I was continually amazed by the truths I would find in there. I learned that His Word never returns void. I also developed a heart for His lost sheep because I had been so lost myself. I often think about my neighbors, the ones who think their lives are just fine. They’re going through the motions without much hope. That was me. I was always an upbeat, social person but inside I was secretly depressed, desperately lonely and always looking for something – I just didn’t know what. When I met God, the very One for whom I’d searched, my inside began to match my outside. My smile was no longer forced or fake.

Knowing that God was with me – that He would never forsake or leave me – has completely changed me.

For awhile, I was the only believer in my family. But in time, God came after every one of us. My husband and daughters came to know the Lord, we were all baptized and my kids have gone on to influence their friends. When I moved to Colorado, my neighbor and I began leading a neighborhood Bible study there. Me, leading a Bible study! Who would’ve thought? Although I don’t feel like I have the gift of teaching, the Holy Spirit is the teacher at Bible study, not me.

I’m just shining a flashlight. It’s the place to come as you are, be real and ask questions when you don’t understand.

I have such a passion and hunger for the Bible now. My life was dramatically transformed the day I accepted Christ, but you don’t grow as a Christian day by day. You grow word by word. By the way, the date I wrote in the Bible – October 4, 2000 – is still there. It turned out to be the day that I discovered I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, as well as the day I was given my own new birth when Jesus found the girl who wasn’t even looking for Him.

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Missy Novak responded to God's call to start a Neighborhood Bible Study of her own when she settled in the Denver area 10 years ago. "I am not a gifted teacher, but I’m willing to open my home and hold the flashlight, so to speak. I want to extend the same love and acceptance that was extended to me."

 

 

 


Missy’s story was written by Erica Rountree. Erica is a freelance writer and the communications director at Action Ministries Inc. She lives and works in Marietta, Georgia, where she’s a member of a neighborhood Bible study and mama to two girls who constantly outsmart her and drive her to drink sweet tea.

 

 
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Help! Where Do I Start?

Michelle Coon
Can you imagine living in a neighborhood where neighbors cared for one another, met often to "do life" together and shared in a sincere desire to know more about God? Our team at NBS2GO has seen it happen, time and time again, in neighborhoods and personal "villages" all over the world. We've seen it happen in OUR neighborhoods. It is God at work in a huge way, and Neighborhood Bible studies are truly changing lives!

So, where do you start? Right here!

The NBS2GO website neatly packages all the tips, tools, ideas and resources of the NBS movement so that all women, everywhere (and men, too!) feel encouraged and equipped to launch Bible studies in their own neighborhoods. Our dream is to see people around the world inviting neighbors into their homes to study the Bible. Since neighborhoods are so central to our lives, we see them as the perfect setting to share Christ, to reach out to our neighbors with friendship and love, and to present the Gospel. The NBS2GO team created this website to inspire and equip women to do just that! Although each expression of neighborhood ministry is as different as each of us are, there are some common themes, elements and resources that every woman can use along the way.

NBS2GO is here to help you!

We have gathered and packaged the ideas and resources for you to use. Prayer guides, invitations, eight Acrostic Bible Studies (including personal study and leader guides) are beautifully designed and free to download and print on the NBS2GO website. These Bible studies are "road-tested" by us and hundreds of other women who have used them to draw their neighbors closer to Christ. Debbie McGoldrick, the founder of NBS2GO, used the website’s printable invitation for her own fall neighborhood Bible study kick-off, which is beginning its 27th year in 2015!

The NBS2GO team prays regularly for the women who are starting or thinking about starting a neighborhood Bible study. We get so excited and filled with gratitude every time a study starts, and they are starting all over the world! We look forward to hearing how God is moving and reaching your neighborhood.

We invite you to explore nbs2go.com today. What questions do you have? How can we pray for you? What fresh stories do you have to share? Please connect with us so we can pray for you and celebrate with you! Like us on Facebook, where we publish helpful and inspirational content for Bible study leaders or anyone who desires a closer relationship with the Lord.

Find more Fresh Stories here!



Michelle Coon lives in Atlanta. She and her husband Jeff have two grown sons. On the weekends, they enjoy exploring the small towns of Georgia, hiking and finding a good farmer’s market. Michelle is an active participant and facilitator in Neighborhood Bible studies, and she is passionate about the Acrostic Bible Study Method.

 
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The Power of One Word

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This summer, our study was challenged to pray one word for each another. For many of us, it was hard to think of just one word to summarize our need before the Lord.

My own word for prayer is DIRECTION.

The Lord has used this one-word prayer idea two ways in my life. First, it's been a great way to ask family, friends and missionaries for a way to pray for them. It is an easy way to keep a list of names and one word to bring before the Lord. As soon as I think of someone’s name, I think of their one word. It is also a great follow-up conversation starter.

Secondly, as I know a person’s one-word prayer, it leads me as I'm reading the Bible to pray scripture for them. For example, one family member asked me to pray for growth. As I was reading Colossians 2:7 "Let your roots GROW down into Him and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will GROW strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness," it led me to pray this verse for him. For my own one-word prayer, I am grateful for God’s promise in Psalm 16:11, "You will show me the path of life (direction); in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore."

I am not certain of my direction in life, but I know Who is and Who will be faithful to show me in His perfect time.

What is your one word? Share it with us in the comments and allow us to pray it for you as a community of believers!

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Michelle Coon lives in Atlanta. She and her husband Jeff have two grown sons. On the weekends, they enjoy exploring the small towns of Georgia, hiking and finding a good farmer’s market. Michelle is an active participant and facilitator in Neighborhood Bible studies, and she is passionate about the Acrostic Bible Study Method.
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Do You Have an Assignment?

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Pat first met Debbie McGoldrick, the founder of NBS2GO, in September 2014 when Debbie shared her vision with the women’s leadership team of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. Pat heard God say to her, “I am giving you an assignment.”  Pat did not try to get the big picture.


She was faithful to take the next step. 

The first step was hosting a neighborhood gathering at Christmastime.



“The evening was wonderful! I saw God in every minute," Pat said. "There were 18 of us. Everyone seemed so pleased to be here. The invitation said 7-8:30....the last five left at 10:15.”

The next step was starting a neighborhood Bible study. At the kickoff meeting in June 2015, there were 13 women present. There were women who are active in their churches and women with no religious affiliation. One of the women was an elderly woman who had been widowed for six weeks.

When the widow left, she said, “I've lived in this neighborhood for 21 years, and I had no idea there were so many believers in the neighborhood. I feel so lifted up after tonight. How do I say thank you?”

Many of the women came because of the way the invitation was written, stressing that all are welcomed.

A sample of the L.I.G.H.T. acrostic study was used at the first meeting using the story of Jesus feeding the four thousand.  The women responded with enthusiasm as they answered the discussion questions.  In the following six weeks, the group will be studying six different people who met Jesus.

“God has placed in my heart a love for my neighbors that I did not have before. And it feels really good," Pat said. "But my soul is more alive than ever, and I am singing the praises of my gracious and loving God.”

What's your assignment?

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Michelle Coon lives in Atlanta. She and her husband Jeff have two grown sons. On the weekends, they enjoy exploring the small towns of Georgia, hiking and finding a good farmer’s market. Michelle is an active participant and facilitator in Neighborhood Bible studies, and she is passionate about the Acrostic Bible Study Method.
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Googling God

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Living in a retirement community, Astrid was asked by her friend Mel if she would lead a Bible study. Mel had several friends who had expressed a desire to study the Bible. The more Astrid prayed about the study, the more her restless heart was inclined to start the study. Astrid and Mel discussed what material would challenge them to dig into the Word, yet was basic and easy to follow.

Years ago, Astrid had been involved in a Neighborhood Bible Study and was impressed by its effectiveness. With that in mind, the Lord led her to "Google" neighborhood Bible studies, which brought her to the NBS2go website. The more Astrid studied the website, the more she became convinced this was just what she was seeking! There were no books or DVDs to buy.  All the information she needed to start was on the website.

With prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit, Astrid and Mel started their Bible study.

Astrid and Mel began with the TRUST acrostic, paired with lessons in the Gospels. One lady said, "I’m like a sponge; I just keep soaking this up!" She also often said she wished she had heard the Gospel long ago. Soon, she was ready to receive Christ as her personal Savior and Lord. It was a special gathering as everyone listened to her repeat the sinner’s prayer for salvation.  She is telling her family and friends about her decision to trust Christ. The next study will be in Colossians to help this new believer grow in her walk with the Lord.

There are 1,400 people living in 10 buildings in Astrid's and Mel’s retirement community. They have been praying about starting other groups in the community using the same materials.

"It would be amazing if there could be one NBS2go in each of the 10 buildings of residents here," Astrid said. "Now I’m dreaming, but then again, why not? God is able!"

What could be possible in your neighborhood if you were willing to step out in faith?

Find more Fresh Stories here!

Michelle Coon lives in Atlanta. She and her husband Jeff have two grown sons. On the weekends, they enjoy exploring the small towns of Georgia, hiking and finding a good farmer’s market. Michelle is an active participant and facilitator in Neighborhood Bible studies, and she is passionate about the Acrostic Bible Study Method.
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Can We Have Community in Our Own Community?

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Last fall, as their church was establishing small groups, Georgia suburbanites Bert and Rhonda thought, "Why should we drive all over the place to have community? Why not start a small group in our own subdivision?" The focus would be to provide an opportunity to engage in conversations about God, or figure out if there is a God!

The couple had already been busy building relationships with their neighbors by hosting spontaneous cookouts at the community pool. They sent an email inviting neighbors to bring a dish to share, and they provided the grill. Conversation at the pool was light and casual. As the unrest increased in the Middle East, Bert felt compelled to be sure his neighbors knew he is a Christian. So, he sent a mass email to everyone in the subdivision inviting them to the "small group."

His creative invitation follows.

If you have religion figured out, this may not be the “small group” for you. The goal is to get a group of dysfunctional people together to know each other and explore faith. The following will not happen:

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Saying Yes: How One Word Can Impact a Whole Neighborhood

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It’s Friday morning and more than 30 cars are parked outside. Women are gathering, hugging and sharing stories. Their lives are changing, their families are changing. And I ask myself, “What if I had not said 'yes' to God? Seventeen years ago I almost said 'no.'”

My family moved to a new neighborhood, just a mile away from my former home where I loved attending a Neighborhood Bible Study (NBS). I told the leader of that study, Debbie McGoldrick, I would still attend her study, but she challenged me; “I know God did not move you for a larger basement and more closet space. I believe He wants you to start a Bible Study in your new neighborhood.”

I resisted immediately. 

"I’m not equipped to lead a Bible Study, I don’t know any of my neighbors, and I have small children – I don’t have time!" But Debbie was persistent. We prayer-walked my new neighborhood, and God began changing my heart. Reluctantly and fearfully, I said 'yes' to God and put a notice in my neighborhood newsletter, asking for interest in an NBS, and 8 to 10 women called to say they would love it!

God has been faithful these 17 years to grow our study to more than 40 women. Recently, a long-time resident and Homeowners Association board member, Diane Prindle, began visiting our NBS. She'd heard about the study and was so encouraged by the community of faith, she wrote an article for our neighborhood newsletter. It was a blessing to read her perspective on our NBS and how it impacts our neighborhood.

It makes me grateful  I said 'yes' to God.

Article reprinted below:

Do you ever wonder why 30-40 cars are parked in front of a neighbor’s home each and every Friday morning from mid-August to mid-May? It’s the Willow Springs Women’s Bible Study that was created by Jan Schuler shortly after she and her husband, Tom, moved from Spring Ridge to Willow Springs in 1997. Over the past 17 years, the group has grown from about eight to 40 individuals, and has never skipped a year! This is by far the largest and longest running organization in Willow Springs. Its members have provided incredible camaraderie and support for one another and others in our neighborhood. Jan reports that this study is open to all, regardless of one’s knowledge of the Bible, and it has often been the first connection for new neighbors. Friends outside of Willow Springs are also welcome. The group has ended their regular study for the summer, but will have monthly meetings, and a few members of the group are going on a summer mission trip to Guatemala. More information can always be found in our monthly newsletter.


Do you sense God asking you to reach out to your neighbors to create a Bible Study community? Do you believe He can equip you with everything you need to start and grow an NBS? Our website www.NBS2GO.com is a great place to start! So what’s holding you back from saying “Yes” to God?

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Following the tragic loss of one of her children in 1992, Jan Schuler was invited by a neighbor to attend Debbie McGoldrick’s NBS. Through understanding God’s presence and purpose in trials and receiving the encouragement and love of neighbors, her heart began to heal. She knows personally the power of NBS to change lives and grow women in their faith journey. Read Jan's story here. She began an NBS when she moved to a new neighborhood in 1998, and she is passionate about making NBS available to women at all stages of life. Jan handles marketing and promotion at NBS2GO.

 

 
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What Chip & Joanna Taught me About Loving my Neighbors

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Honey, we're going to Waco! 

I’m not exactly the Twitter Queen. In fact, I do my 40+-year-old best just to keep up with social media, but I know I lag behind. My four teenagers remind me of this frequently. I even text with one finger. One! This provides great hilarity in my home.

So, to think of ME entering a Twitter contest is funny to say the least. But that’s exactly what I did recently when one of the hosts of HGTV’s Fixer Upper home renovation show, Chip Gaines, announced the contest on his Twitter page. (Coincidentally, this is my FAVORITE show on television. Just saying.) The weekly winners would receive Magnolia Market T-shirts from Joanna Gaines’ charming home store and get a chance to win the season-ending grand prize. The grand prize was a trip to Waco, Texas, to watch the airing of Fixer Upper alongside Chip and Joanna.

Now some of you, like me, might be asking, “What is Twitter anyway?”  I wish I had a good explanation. Twitter could be considered a man’s world because “tweets” are limited to 140 characters. Characters. Not words, ladies! This makes any “tweet” feel like an exercise in extreme restraint.

I quickly got creative finding ways around the 140-character limit. Contest questions ranged from “Send me your best picture of a goat or almost goat” to “Why are you a fan of Fixer Upper?” I entered every week. I spent far too much time on this endeavor!

Sometimes, Chip would “favorite” my tweets. You would have thought I’d won the lottery! I took a screen shot every time he “favorited” my tweet. The teens in my home thought it was cool, too. Teens. Dear people.

After eight weeks of these silly submissions, Chip and Joanna chose me to be one of the grand-prize winners! What?? Me? A trip to Waco? I cannot express in 140 characters how excited I was!

If you’re a fan of the show, you know the immense privilege my husband and I were given. Chip and Joanna have hearts of gold. They value one another and give honor to each other and those around them. They have four young children, to whom they are tender and attentive. They are mindful of investing in the community, and they are committed to bettering Waco and its local artisans.

Their desire for excellence in all they do proves who they are and Whose they are. 

My first impression of Joanna was that she is even prettier in person. She is lovely. And Chip? His smile can light up any room … and any life. They are a beautiful couple inside and out. When we were with them, I honestly thought they would meet us and politely scoot off to the side to do more "important" things. Nothing could have been further from the truth! They took a genuine interest in us and made us feel loved. Yep, they are the real deal on and off camera.

Impacting the people and community right where they live is of great importance to them. Their light is shining bright, and it shows. This is what draws me to them and their story. Their desire to be an influence for Christ is obvious. And how are they doing this?

One house at a time. One family at a time. 

You and I will probably never have nationwide influence like Chip and Joanna Gaines. But our journeys can be similar! What does it look like for us to be Light right where we live? One house at a time? One family at a time?

What are we known for in our spheres of influence? In our neighborhoods? What are the impressions we leave with our communities?

I’m asking myself this week … 

  • Do people feel valued when I am in a conversation with them?

  • Do I listen with genuine concern?

  • Am I tender and attentive toward those around me?

  • Am I “giving” and “bettering” my community?


I’m amazed that a silly Twitter contest could teach me so much about impacting my community for the cause of Christ. Only God could have come up with that tweet!
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Joan Parsons, pictured here with husband Drew and Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper, is a Neighborhood Bible Study leader and mother of four.

 

 

 

 

 
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Are You a Giver or a Taker?

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Her eyes were locked out the airplane window taking it all in. Flying out of LaGuardia and getting panoramic views of Manhattan is breath-taking, but I was a little confused about why this 26-year-old advertising agency account executive had gone from extra talkative to silent. Then I caught a glimpse of a tear running down her cheek, that she wiped away quickly. They were unstoppable. More tears came as she simply embraced the moment. 

It was her last time to fly out of New York City and call it “home.”

We had a fascinating and significant conversation reflecting on her three years living in New York and discussing how one grieves a place they’ve grown to love. She recounted the deep loneliness she experienced her first year that seems so common to so many peoples’ stories we hear.

Her story was typical to many 20-somethings who have made their way to the City. She had come to do some low-rung hard work at an ad agency in New York for a few years. And as a result, she has been able to land a top Account Executive position at her home city’s top firm that she, self-admittedly, would have never landed without “NYC” on her resume.

It just hit home in a fresh way. Although I don’t suspect I’ll be leaving New York City for a decade or so, the reality is that there will likely be a day when I am on plane, looking out the window, saying goodbye to the City as my “home,” with tears rolling down my face.

And it made me think about my own heart, and whether it has maintained the deep-seeded desire to serve the city and not just take what I can get from it.

In surrendering to the Lord again and re-centering my desires to His desires, I realized how quickly being in the City can cause me to shrink into a self-absorbed story. Talking with church pastors in New York City has helped me further understand how we can join in with what God is already doing here. I don’t want a self-absorbed story.  I desire to serve this city and the people in it.  The following sentences have helped me consider whether or not I am doing this.

  • "I come to get" vs. "I come to give" – When we take from the city and use it like a theme park, instead of becoming part of the city.

  • "Refugees" vs. "Residents" – When we huddle together with only like-people instead of getting to know the diversity of the city and bless it.

  • "Consumer" vs. "Missional" – When we consume the resources of the city for our own purposes, instead of helping renew the places we observe are broken.

  • "Tourists" vs. "Biblical Exiles" – When we use the city, or become just like the city, or huddle together for warm comfort, instead of engaging in helping the city prosper so that we can prosper (Jeremiah 29). 


As I think about so many of us, including myself, entering our neighborhoods, jobs and the relational networks God has placed us in, I invite you to join me in surrendering our days in this City (or wherever God has you living) to be about God’s grand Kingdom-building and restoration story instead of our self-centered stories we so easily default into.

So where do we start? Well, I am more and more convinced that it doesn’t necessarily start with a grand strategic plan, but with us all surrendering to be faithful in the ordinary of where God has chosen to place us. 

Find more Fresh Stories here!

David Robbins is the director of millennials for Cru New York City. He is the father of an amazing special needs kid (plus two others). He lives in Manhattan, where he is learning how to give and not just take from the city, while launching a new emphasis within Cru to the emerging generation. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidRobbinsCru.

 

 
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Could a Neighborhood Divided be Your Mission Field?

diane ogle
How do you define a missionary?

Do you need to attend a Bible College or Seminary to be qualified?

Does one have to relocate to Africa or the utter ends of the earth to be an effective missionary?

Your mission field is where God places you! 

Whether it is across the seas or at home in your neighborhood, He can use you in a mighty way. He just wants us available to be used.

Isaiah 6:8 ‘And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

We've been gathering in our neighborhood for weekly Bible Studies for several years now. NBS2GO inspired our launch and supplied the tools to get us started. Weekly, we run to the safe haven of one another’s home for a cup of coffee and snack and then dive in to experience the ‘iron sharpens iron’ study together. We have organized food drives, Operation Christmas Child gatherings and prayer walks.

Until this year, our neighborhood was a seemingly peaceful place of community and reprieve from our daily work lives. Now, we have neighbors fighting, emails shooting, board members misusing power, accusations and unrest. There are homes on the market, and realtors are now warning their clients about the state of our community…or lack thereof.  Ironically, our bible study group is delving into the book of Nehemiah. Today, we had a time of prayer pouring out for our neighborhood. Then we correlated the work and adversaries that Nehemiah and his team faced in their vision to build the wall.

What can a small group of women in this neighborhood do to make a change?

We can continue to gather, study the word, grow in grace; but the power is in our  prayer. We can PRAY for our neighbors, PRAY for peace and unity, PRAY to the Father to protect, PRAY against the enemy that is trying to steal, kill and destroy.  ‘For such a time is this’ is why we have gathered. To take an active stance in the throne room of the King of Kings and petition. We can attend board meetings. We can be voices of truth, reason and peace seeking unity and harmony. We are warriors of the great Almighty, and He has placed each of us in our neighborhoods and communities ‘for such a time as this’ to be the salt and light.

Find more Fresh Stories here!

Dianne Ogle is the owner and founder of Areté-Executive Women of Influence. She also serves as an executive coach to CEOs and executive-level women. Dianne is married with three boys and lives in Buford, Ga.
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Unforgettable: Meet Polly

NBS2GO prayer email

When my friend Polly was in her mid-80s she asked me, “Am I too old to start a Neighborhood Bible Study?”  Can you guess my immediate response? “You’re never too old! Let me help you.”   

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Cul-de-sac Christianity: Meet Cas

2010CasandBobMonaco (2 of 43)
When my family and I moved to Salt Lake City just before my senior year of high school, I was ticked! I left behind all of my friends, my boyfriend and a life I was very comfortable with. We moved into a brand-new neighborhood next door to a young mom named Lynn, who was new to the neighborhood too. She quickly befriended my mom, and often popped in for coffee or a quick chat. She was young, hip and I loved spending time with her or babysitting her kids. Over the next few years, she walked with our family through the usual highs and lows that come with life and teenagers. She became my mom’s closest friend.

A few years after I graduated from high school, I went to college looking for a husband, and soon was blissfully engaged to a guy I barely knew. When he called off the wedding just 10 days before the very day, my life unraveled, and I turned to Lynn for comfort and advice. She listened and consoled, and eventually shared John 3:16 with me.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

She explained that the love I was searching for in a husband could only be found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Over the next weeks and months, through a lot of struggle and poor choices, I often looked to Lynn to help me understand my new-found faith. When I left Utah for a second time, she wrote me long letters -- email and texting didn’t exist back then -- and always pointed me to Christ. I still have all of the letters she wrote to me some 35 years ago!

After my mom and I became Christians, Lynn told us that when she moved into our neighborhood she began praying for all of the families who would soon occupy the houses being built. She prayed specifically for the homes on our cul-de-sac. Within a few short years, several neighbors and almost everyone in my family came to know Christ as Savior.

Lynn was an instrument of multiplication for Christ right where she lived, and I'm grateful for that.

What are you doing today to show the love of Jesus to your neighbors?

Joshua 1:3

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What Happens When a Pastor Promises Dessert and No Invitations to Church?

Meet Anne Wright, wife of Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga. Bryant, a former Southern Baptist Convention president, shepherds a church of 6,000+ members. In the summer of 2013, the couple listened in on a seminar conducted by NBS2GO, which focused on leading a neighborhood Bible study. In the following video, Anne shares the couple's story of taking a step of faith to reach out to their own neighbors.

Listen in and be encouraged!

 

If you would like more information about hosting a seminar, please contact us here!



Live Work Play - Anne from Johnson Ferry on Vimeo.
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I Didn't Understand a God Who Would Allow This: Jan's Story

vanessa
The woman walks up to her neighbor’s house, pausing at the driveway and closing her eyes. She takes a deep breath, but she’s trembling and her heart races. Her chattering children trail behind her, oblivious to the sorrow that now lives inside their neighbor’s house. She looks at her daughter – just six years old, the same age as the child her neighbor lost in a car accident a few weeks ago. “Oh Lord, help me. Please help me do this.” Will her neighbor, whom she’s never even met, want to see her? Will she slam the door in her face? Will the sight of her little girl just cause more pain and grief? But God has asked her to come here today, and she promised Him long ago that when He asked, she would answer “Yes.” In obedience, she walks up the stairs and rings the doorbell. Inside, a frail, exhausted woman sits at her kitchen table, head in her hands. Her tears spill onto the pages of her Bible, which lays open to Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. She reads the words over and over, trying to make sense of them. “How, God?” she cries out. “How can you possibly work this for the good?”

Just a couple of weeks before my daughter Vanessa died in 1992, I’d quit my job and was looking forward to being a stay-at-home mom to my children. But nothing was turning out like I’d planned. All the dreams I’d had for our family were shattered, and I was coming home to a life that I’d never imagined, or wanted – one of a grieving mother who’d lost a child.

After the accident, I was desperate to understand God’s purposes in the midst of our tragedy. I read everything I could get my hands on about God’s character because I simply didn’t understand a God who would allow this thing to happen to us. We’d been in a horrific car crash on the way home from a family vacation at Disney World, and I’d fervently prayed for God to heal Vanessa, utterly convinced that He would. In fact, I had prayed daily for the protection of all my children. But my sweet daughter died after four days in the hospital.

I’d been a committed Christian for a decade at that point, but I felt as if maybe I’d never known God at all.

When Debbie visited me a few weeks after Vanessa’s death, I was floundering, vulnerable and searching for answers to some really tough questions. I knew she led a Bible study in our neighborhood, but that day, she was wholly focused on coming alongside me and reaching out to me in my grief. When I was later invited to her Neighborhood Bible Study by another friend, I gladly accepted the invitation. I wanted the relationships, but I was also hungry to know what God was doing in our lives.

I needed to know.

I was quiet at the Bible studies for a long time. The women there didn’t ask anything of me. They simply loved me. I was always on the lookout for Romans 8:28 at work in our lives, and as I studied the Bible and prayed, a small part of me began to believe that He did have a purpose. I begged Him to let me learn what it was.

Two years to the day of Vanessa’s death, I found out I was pregnant again with a daughter we would name Caroline. In the final month of a seemingly normal pregnancy, a routine ultrasound showed that Caroline would be born with a type of dwarfism and physical disabilities. The doctors told us she only had a 25 percent chance of surviving the delivery. My Bible study called a prayer meeting immediately, laying hands on us and asking God to spare our daughter and even heal her in the womb.

Two women from the study came to my house to prepare Caroline’s nursery, stripping wallpaper, painting and decorating. It was so positive and hopeful – they were preparing for my daughter’s homecoming although we weren’t sure we’d even be able to bring her home. Caroline did survive delivery, and she was in intensive care for two months. The Neighborhood Bible Study took care of us, organizing home-cooked meals for our family every day while Caroline was in the hospital. The day she came home, the women decorated the entire neighborhood with pink balloons. They decorated their cars and paraded the neighborhood, honking horns and yelling congratulations from their windows. It was quite a celebration, and it showed me how God cares for us through other people.

When I moved away some years later, Debbie gently pushed me out of the nest, encouraging me to start a study in my new neighborhood. Reluctantly, I prayer walked my new neighborhood, taking to heart God’s words in Joshua 1 where He says, “I’m giving you every square inch of land you set your foot upon.” As I prayed for my neighbors, I literally set my foot on their driveways and asked the Lord to open their hearts to Him and bring the women He wanted to come to my study.

Feeling entirely unequipped, I secretly hoped no one would reply to my invitation so I could go back to my comfort zone. However, I did get replies and 14 years later, we have a group of 30 women who meet once a week to love each other and become more intimate with our Creator. I have such a heart for women who hunger to understand Him, like I did. We all get excited when someone invites a new friend to the study. We whisper among ourselves, “I wonder what God is going to do in HER life?”

II Corinthians 1: 3-5 is very meaningful for me. It says, “He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” I encourage the women in my Neighborhood Bible Study to comfort others the way God has comforted us. When two women in our study lost adult children within weeks of one another, the women came alongside these grieving mothers the same way that my neighbors did for me when Vanessa died. Although it’s an expertise none of us would choose to have, it’s one that God has used many times over to comfort others who suffer.

Nothing is wasted.

There are many times we won’t understand -- this side of heaven, anyway -- the good that God brings out of our suffering, but I feel blessed that He has allowed our family to see Romans 8:28 here on Earth, just as I asked Him so many years ago. He gave us Caroline. He gave us neighbors and friends whose lives have been changed by His love. He gave us a ministry in Kenya, where we helped build a school in the slums of Kawangware in Vanessa’s honor. A plaque with her picture hangs there. Vanessa’s name means “butterfly,” which is often used as a Christian symbol for life transformation. To my family, it’s God’s message that He would change our lives and give us a ministry of transformation.

When Caroline was eight or nine, she asked me, “Mom, if you could wish for anything in the world, what would it be?” I was silent for a second, contemplating the numerous surgeries and challenges in her life. Before I could answer, she said, “And don’t say that you’d wish I was big. God made me little for a reason, and I don’t want to miss His plan.”

Neither do I.

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Jan Schuler (first row, far left, with her family), manages marketing and promotion for NBS2GO.com. Following the tragic loss of her daughter, Vanessa (pictured above), in 1992, Jan was invited by a neighbor to attend Debbie McGoldrick’s NBS. Through understanding God’s presence and purpose in trials and receiving the encouragement and love of neighbors, her heart began to heal. She knows personally the power of NBS to change lives and grow women in their faith journey. She began an NBS when she moved to a new neighborhood in 1998, and she is passionate about making NBS available to women at all stages of life. 

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They Prayed for Me Before I Knew Them: Sharon's Story

erica roundtree
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a mother. When I was five years old, I recall wondering as we passed a nearby orphanage, “Who is taking care of those children? Are they okay? Do they have someone to love them?”

My husband and I had three beautiful daughters, but we longed for more. We eventually fostered more than 70 children in our home. In 2000, we adopted a daughter and two years later, a sibling group of six – two boys and four girls. These children had suffered unspeakable abuse and neglect at the hands of their biological parents. Michael, just 7 years old, already had a thick psychiatric file. We were advised not to take him, but God made it clear that he belonged to us, and we were being called to keep these siblings together.

Michael has battled severe mental illness all his life. For more than a year, he retreated into his own world under the bed where he’d fight witches and demons and talk to imaginary people. He was often paranoid and violent. He’d climb on the roof of our two-story home and scream. He knocked holes in our walls, tore up the furniture and stopped up the toilets. He threatened to kill us all. It became so difficult to handle Michael’s outbursts in public that we started staying in more and more. Our finances were drained, and our house was falling apart. We grew increasingly isolated from the outside world. During this time, I can remember looking outside and feeling ashamed that I didn’t know the neighbors walking by.

I often confided in my longtime neighbor, Becky. She invited me for years to come to her neighborhood Bible study, but I knew I could never leave the children, even to go two doors down for a couple of hours a week. Little did I know, those women were already praying for my family and helping us from behind the scenes. In 2010, we were able to place Michael in a therapeutic foster home where he is the only child in the house, and I was able, for the first time, to attend the neighborhood Bible study. There I found a caring, supportive group of women who gathered weekly to experience God’s Word. We shared the stories of how God had worked in our lives, and I was amazed at His goodness and His perfect timing.

Now when I look out my windows, I know the precious women who pass my house. I know that God has worked miracles on my behalf through them. Just as He did not let me fully comprehend the severity of Michael’s illness while he was with us, He also did not let me know how much love I would receive from these women one day. Otherwise, I would have been discouraged by all I was missing. His timing is perfect, and I am blessed.

 

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Sharon’s story was written by Erica Rountree. Erica is a freelance writer and the communications director at Action Ministries Inc. She lives and works in Marietta, Georgia, where she’s a member of a neighborhood Bible study and mama to two girls who constantly outsmart her and drive her to drink sweet tea.
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Diane's story: Having a Heart for the Community Where God Plants Us

Diane's Story
Our family moved to Buford, Ga., from Florida two years ago in a total faith move. We had no jobs, no friends, family or connections. But we were convinced the Lord wanted us in this geographic location.

I've always had a heart for the community where God plants our family. After we settled in and began receiving employment opportunities, I began to yearn for neighborhood connections and a Bible Study. The Lord put on my heart to start a study, but I needed to wait for His leading. Soon, I met a neighbor whose husband is the pastor of a large, local church. I mentioned my yearnings to her, and we agreed to launch a study together at the New Year.

In the meantime, I met Debbie McGoldrick, and she shared all the Lord had placed on her heart and the NBS2GO studies. Once I saw the materials, I knew this would be perfect for a new neighborhood study, one that can both reach those who are newly seeking and those who already love delving deeply into the Word.

Intentionally, I opened our home for the neighborhood's annual Christmas party. There I met women and shared our idea for launching a Bible study in the neighborhood. Several immediately desired to join us! Later, I learned that several of these ladies had specifically prayed for Christians to move into our house. Since launching one year ago, we have prayer walked and put out flyers inviting neighbors to our study several times. At Christmas this year, we hosted an Operation Christmas Child event. We are now planning a food drive. Many of us attend board meetings and social events with the openness to meeting new families. We are intentional about connecting and reaching out to neighbors with food, kindness and encouragement, even if they never join our Bible study.

I may never have met these women had it not been for our study. The love and commitment we have for one another is so strong. We “run,” not walk, to each other’s homes each week, looking forward to studying, growing and loving one another more.

Diane O.'s Neighborhood Bible Study celebrated a year together in January.

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Adrienne's Story: My Whole Life Would be Suspect


There was no way I was going to a neighborhood Bible Study! These people were radicals. They would no doubt judge me. I didn’t own a Bible, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to find my way around one if I did. All my life prior to Bible Study attendance would be suspect! I was almost 40 years old, had everything anybody would rightfully need in life, and I was miserable. The self-help aisles at Barnes and Noble weren’t helping. I sensed I was being pushed hard by the Holy Spirit to give it a try. I see that now, only in retrospect. So I went.

None of my fears were founded. The group of women I met that first year were polite, patient and concerned about the spirituality of others. Nobody attempted to convict me on my prior lack of Bible knowledge or church attendance. There were no critics as I flipped back and forth through my Bible trying to locate the proper Book. No one commented on me or my family’s spiritual life prior to that first year of the study.

I cannot begin to estimate the value our Neighborhood Bible Study has brought to my life and to my family’s lives. There is no doubt the Lord intended for me to be in that environment to come into a personal relationship with Christ. Despite having the worst of preconceived notions, I was to take away Truth – life-altering Truth. Jesus is likely delighted to not be the stern taskmaster and cosmic scorekeeper anymore. My family now knows the Lord as the Loving Father that He is. My husband and I have grown in faith together in the years since I started attending the study. All three of my children now know Jesus and have the opportunity to live a life intertwined with Him, which I never had. I am certain that my grandchildren will have the opportunity to grow up with Jesus.


Did I mention that the woman who ultimately showed me the way to Christ actually asked me often to attend the study, through at least two years of carpooling? I am eternally glad that I finally said yes.












Adrienne Osbourne



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Unexpected Blessings... Amy's Story


Unexpected Blessings
Amy von Borstel

I could've never dreamed of the blessings that would come from my involvement in a neighborhood Bible study. I hadn't planned to be a part of a Bible study group. I got involved in a roundabout way.

It all started when my boss approached me at my job, saying, "Amy, would you be interested in being the babysitter for the neighborhood Bible study where I attend?"

I worked at a children's gymnastics facility and loved children. So I excitedly wrote down the name and telephone number of the leader of the study, and got in touch with her within a few days.

I'll never forget the first conversation I had with the leader, Laurie. When we talked I could hear the enthusiasm in her voice. She began telling me how they had prayed for God to send a new children's caregiver to the study.

With excitement, Laurie said, "Our previous babysitter was named Amy. She was a compassionate and caring lady. We've been praying for God to send us another "Amy" and He literally sent us another Amy!" We chuckled together as she said, "God has a sense of humor, doesn't He?"

When we walk close with God, there are no coincidences. He divinely plans each detail in our lives. I knew in that moment that God had orchestrated for me to be a part of this Bible study group. But I had no way of foreseeing all the incredible ways God would lavish His love on me through this group of women. They became the community that I needed to be a part of while I was going through some very challenging trials in my life.

While the ladies were having their Bible study time, I was in another area caring for the children of the moms that were attending the meetings. I got to know the moms very well through sharing and talking each week. They encouraged me, prayed for me, and grew to be my cherished friends. I was a part of that group for seven years. The fruit of those years is still growing in my life today. Women's Bible study groups cultivate long-lasting, true friendships and help us grow strong in our faith.

God works in mysterious ways. He amazes me in the way He weaves things together in our lives. I would encourage any woman who's considering attending or hosting a Bible study to dive in wholeheartedly. I know from experience that you'll look back one day and be amazed at all the awesome blessings that came out of your commitment to begin studying the Bible with your neighbors.

 

Bio: Amy von Borstel is a wife, homeschooling mom, and Christian writer. She is living her dream of being home with her family. She loves to write the stories of God’s faithfulness in her life and has a passion for helping the orphans of the world.

 

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What is NBS2GO?

NBS2GO = Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO - nbs2go.com is simply the packaging of ideas, resources, and inspiration to equip believers to launch and multiply Bible study groups.


What's the big deal about a Bible study group?

Like a one-room schoolhouse, a Bible study group brings together a wide range of seekers and Christ-followers to study, discuss, and encourage one another toward life application of God’s Word. This blending of spiritual maturity levels creates a dynamic, life-transforming community. Friendships are formed, and group members are equipped to minister to others where they do life. Life transformation and multiplication!

NLT Scripture references on nbs2go.com and in publications, unless otherwise noted.

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