So often, as I begin to feel like I understand what’s next in my journey, God gently reminds me of a few passages of scripture. (See Proverbs 16:9 NLT and 20:24 NLT below.) Our church was going through a series called “We Are The Church,” and God did just that. I had been mulling over the idea of starting a small group or community for a few weeks before this series began. Pastor Craig Groeschel preached a powerful message on community, and it became abundantly clear that this idea was not mine alone. God was calling me to begin what would become the Overflow Community.
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT
“The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?”Proverbs 20:24 NLT
In obedience, I signed up Saturday evening after hearing the message without a plan for what this community would look like. I was saying “Yes” to God’s direction, not knowing what it might entail. I spent a lot of time seeking God for wisdom and direction. My group info was posted on Tuesday morning following Pastor Craig Groeschel’s message, and by 10 pm, I had two emails from people interested in the group.
The Back Story
A little over one year before all of this, I had been thinking about creating a community for those who experience anxiety and the people who support them. As I was working on my first book, I began to see a great need for a community where people feel safe to ask tough questions, to be transparent about the challenges they are facing, and to be encouraged in their journey. I wanted to create a safe place where people could learn about mental health and what it means to follow Jesus. It sounds so basic, but I had never seen or heard of a place that welcomes questions about mental health and how it relates to our relationship with Jesus.
A Season of Preparation
Little did I realize when I signed up to lead Overflow that God had been planting seeds for over a year at that time. What I thought was mainly my idea was not my idea at all. The events that led up to Overflow were a season of preparation. God had given me this vision of starting a community and was watering the seeds a little every day.
The idea of starting a community originated around the book I was writing. At the time, I envisioned a community to share resources for those facing brain pain, also known as mental health challenges or mental illness. I wanted to build a community around my book and grow it from there. I believed that people desperately needed a place to gather and have safe conversations that were not possible elsewhere.
So many things were up in the air. I questioned just about everything I was thinking through. Would people pay to be a part of this community? What would it cost? What features should I put into the community? Should I create a course?
Initially, the community was going to be part of a for-profit business. I was going to offer the community as a paid service to customers in the U.S. The community would supplement sales from my book. As an independent author, books don’t usually make much money. Authors are often forced to find other ways to pay for publishing their books or make a living, whether that is a full-time job elsewhere or by selling services around a book launch.
Serving a Global Community
As I continued serving each week, responding to emails, leading community group meetings, and sending out newsletters, I began to get a better picture of the community. The first lesson I learned was that Overflow would serve a global audience. Early on, I received many emails from those in the U.S. who were interested in Overflow, but very few would show up for community group meetings.
I learned that a good part of the people who needed the resources from the community would not be able to afford the one I pictured early in this adventure.