A few years ago God spoke to me about entering a new season.I was soon to hit the big `50` but also sensed that following Jesus for over 40 years and serving in leading worship,youth and a home group a change in direction was coming.He challenged me that as you mature you have a choice to be either a critic or coach.As you get older both physically and spiritually the attitudes you form have an effect and impact on both yourself and others around you.
In the `middle age` sometimes you can become `set in your ways`,critical or judgemental of the next generation.Yes and be quick to offer correction or murmur in your heart-`that`s not the way it should be done` or `they should conduct themselves in such and such a manner`.I remember Rick Godwin saying you can either be a fireman or a coach.The fireman puts fires out.You can dampen the fire of passion in the next generation by continually criticising,making judgemental remarks or corrections.The coach however while at times corrects,gives advice and does so with the purpose of encouraging,building up and getting the best out of the player.
How often do you hear the football fans shouting critical abuse from the Stands at the failure of players.The Coach however at half time will yes challenge bad play,change tactics but also encourage and motivate with the objective to see the team go out and win.The challenge for those mature is to be a coach not a critic.To draw alongside others and encourage,motivate,build up,share wisdom,pray for and be available to support.A bit like a father son relationship.The father who loves his son will do all to bring out the best in his son and see him find and fulfil his own (that is the sons own) destiny.In the New Testament Paul had such a relationship with Timothy.He also told Titus to call on the older men and women to teach younger men and women.Similiarly the coach often once a player will take the wisdom they learned from both experiences-successes and mistakes passing it on to the player.
What are you? A critic or coach? Be a Barnabas-an encourager.He took Saul who became Paul in his early days in ministry when others were suspicious of him.Barnabas worked alongside him planting churches and teaching believers.Draw alongside others and encourage them to fulfil the works God has prepared for them.
As we grow naturally our bodies change and we adapt.Similiarly as the Church,the Body of Christ grows,adjustments are made.There has to be flexibility and movememnt for expanding life.Small groups are no exception.Let`s lok at three areas where change can take place.
1.Stopping a group without feeling guilty.
As a group leader you may need to stop leadig a group due to work,family commitments or a change of direction.God may lead you into a different area of ministry.Our seasons may change and it`s important to understand what season you are in and what to do.Only lead a group if you are enjoying it and believe it is what you should be doing now.This is different than quitting a group because you are discouraged or offended.If so,you need to speak to God,a friend and the pastoral leadership.Brian Houston-`Encouragement is nourishment`.You may just need support and strength to continue to serve.However if you are entering a new season in your life,do not feel guilty stoping what you are doing now,if taking the next step in your journey is different.
2.Moving groups without offence.
Members of your group may leave and move on to another group.Don`t as a leader take offence.Sometimes people move because the night,time or location nolonger suits them as their circumstances have changed and they need to adjust.Friendships expand,people take on new interests or to progress in their walk with God some need to change groups.Do not take it personal.Remember the goal is to make disciples and encourage each to grow.It`s not about building people around you but pointing them towards Jesus.When some move from your group give them your blessing,encourage them in their next venture,keep in contact and always be available.
3.Have a health check.
There always is the danger a small group can get into a routine and fall into a rut.Continually doing the same thing,becoming tedious or stale.Our spiritual lives should not stand still and stagnate.Group members can lose interest and become apathetic.Stir or stagnate. How?
As a group leader it is good to take a spiritual health check.Get feedback from those who attend your group.This could involve a simple survey asking members to rate between 0-5 how much they benefited and enjoyed various aspects of group life eg. Worship,Teaching,Topics,Discussion,Fellowship,Outreach….
Sometimes it is good to take a break from curciculim and have a fun night or social event.
Make sure when choosing curriculim it`s` not just your pet topic,favourite Bible teacher/speaker nor just stick continually to the smae topic/speaker.Remember the purpose is to widen your vision and expand your knowledge of God taking the next steps in your journey with Him together.
Have an end goal,like do an outreach together,go on a weekend or have a day trip.
Small group leaders are not perfect.Like all believers they have weaknesses,make mistakes and wrong decisions but know and experience Gods grace.Leaders pursue excellence,intimacy with God and grow in their relationship with Jesus being changed to be more like Him.
QUALILITIES OF A GOOD LEADER.
1.AUTHENTIC.Be real.Just be yourself recognising you have unique gifts.Don`t perform or try to be someone you are not.Be sincere and transparent in your walk with God.
2.SERVANT HEART.Having an unselfish love for others expecting nothing in return and going the extra mile.Not looking to your own interests but others. PHIL.2:3,4.
3.SPIRIT FILLED.Just as an electric appliance without power is ineffective so too gifted leaders without the power of the Holy Spirit.Those who serve in the Early Church were full of the Holy Spirit.ACTS2:4 ; 4:8 ; 6:3,5.Draw strength,wisdom and power from the life of the Spirit.
4.TRUSTWORTHY.Good leaders provide a safe and honest environment for sharing.Keep a confidence and don1t gossip.Show respect and faithfulness to group members and leadership.
5.HONOUR LEADERS.Before leaders can lead they must have been led.Learned to be followers.The disciples where disciples of Jesus before they went on to make disciples of the nations.Good small group leaders honour,respect and love their local church leadership united with the local vision.
6.TEACHABLE.Leaders are god listeners and lean from others.They spend time gaining wisdom through study and the Holy Spirit.Never having a `know it all` or `having arrived` attitude.
7.SACRIFICAL.Have a commitment to give time for group meeting,preparation and prayer.Energised by a passion to serve God and others.
8.CELEBRATE.Enjoy leading.Celebrate God,His goodness and what He is doing in your group.Don`t be too busy,burdened with problems and have no joy.If you do not enjoy leading you will not lead well.Rest,relax and learn to laugh.
THE ROLE OF A SMALL GROUP LEADER.
1.Invit and meet people you think would connect to the group.Follow up on new and absent members.Leaders grow their own groups.
2.Implement the teaching series as set by your local `eldership`/leadership.If left to you as a group leader select a teaching curriculum that will take your group members on the next steps of their journey with God.Pray and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in choosing.
3.Pray and prepare for small group meeting ahead of time.
4.Pray regularly for your group members by name.Remember you burn out if you believe you are responsible for people transforming and growing.God does the work.
5.Be attentive to the needs of your group.Let God use your eyes and ears.Have discernment.
6.Pastoral Care-if sick,bereaved….inform local Pastoral leadership.As a group rally around members facing difficult circumstances.
7.Encourage group members to move one step at a time in their journey with God.Take a genuine interest in their progress.
8.Ask your group for feedback.Find out what they enjoyed of disliked and why?
9.Arrange social activities and fun.Celebrate for example birthdays and special occasions.
10.Look for and develop a co-leader to assist.Consult local leadership.This is particular beneficial if you are sick,an emergency arises and you are unavailable.Rather than cancel or change a group night it is good to be able to bring in the co leader.It`s important to develop a consistentrhythm of when you hold your group avoiding confusion.Don`t always host group at your home.
What type of small group is to be held?What is the primary aim?To introduce people to Jesus Christ or to take existing believers on their next steps?
Who is the group to reach-youth,young marrieds,parents,men,women or mixed?
A number of groups gather around a common interest eg. A sport,fitness,walking,cooking,gardening or motorbikes.The activity is an opportunity to make new connections and form friendships.However the main goal should be kept in focus-to make disciples.If not the small group will only exist as another social group.Pray for openings during conversions to share Jesus.Time could be allotted for a short testimony to be shared.Real,relevant and declaring the Good News of Jesus.The idea is people to share teir story and Gods story.
Most groups that involve teaching are curriculim based with accompanying DVD and workbook.These type of groups are primarily held in homes but can also take place in a hall,coffee shop or restaurant.
A Typical Format Of A Home Group –
A welcoming atmosphere is created in the home.Clean and tidy with minimal distractions.Each guest greeted with a hug/handshake and smile.
ICEBREAKER-This is good particularly for the first group meeting or when newcomers attend.They are warm ups to put everyone at ease and to feel at home.The aim is that everyone says something.They are questions that reveal a little about you.
What is your name and where are you from?
Where did you live between the age of 8 and 12?
What winds you up and what helps you unwind?
What movie or book has impacted your life?
What is the worst or best thing that has happened to you this week?
If you could be an electric appliance what would it be and why?
Icebreakers do not have to be introduced at every group meeting.
Time spent focusing on God and not each other.Moving from thinking of the distractions of the day or week to being still before Him.Worship may include-
Singing a song(s) together
Listening to a worship song
Time given for each to thank or praise God for something.
Each speak out in turn an attribute of God that means a lot personally to them
A simple prayer or opportunity for a few to pray.
Avoid asking anyone to pray unless you have asked them privately beforehand.
A DVD teaching session lasting 15-30minutes is sufficient leaving room for a discussion and interaction.The aim is not just to listen to a Bible teacher but to take what is taught and apply it to our lives.To listen and learn from each other.
LEADING A GOOD DISCUSSION
-The Group Leaders objective is not to do all the talking but for evryone to participate.(30%70%).Listening to all without interrupting.
-Ask open ended questions.
-Applying the message.What does this mean to me?What did I get out of this?What is my next step?How does this affect me?
-Don`t be fraid of silences.People also need time to think through.Encourage quieter members to participate.Ask them what they think or have they a view?Without pressure quiet group members will share when comfortable through time.
-Avoid the discussion getting side tracked and keep to the message/topic in hand.
-Avoid controversial subjects/topics.
-Handle a dominating group member by suggesting to the-`Thank you for sharing.Shall we ask xxxx what their experience or thoughts are?`Alternatively turn from them and direct your attention to another group member and ask them by name – `Would you like to give your thoughts on this?`
The aim is for every member to have the opportunity to share and we learn from each other.Each of us have different insights and experiences in life.
Time to wrap up.Conclude with a prayer or give opportunity for a few to pray.
Water-hot or cold.Tea or coffee.Some lite bites.
WHEN?The typical length of a small group meeting would be 1 – 1 1/2 hours.There is no hard and fast rule but it is good for group members to be leaving wanting to come back for more,rather than exhausted looking home.Also the time for refreshments is an opportunity if some have to leave earlier if they desire due to eg. family or early start for work.
The existence of small groups in church life is not new.They have appeared over the years as “housemeeting”,”Bible clubs”,”housefellowships”,”discipleship classes”,”cells”,”connect groups”,”life groups”,and the list goes on.Their focus is as varied – for some it`s about studing `deeper` the Bible,for others it`s outreach or making social connections and still others it is about prayer and `ministry`..Is one type right or wrong?Should it be a mixture of all the above?
WHAT IS THE GOAL?
Jesus gathered a small group of twelve disciples.They followed Him and as they travelled together He taught them.As they lived life the disciples not only listened but observed what Jesus did.Their relationship grew and they became more than servants.Jesus called them friends.Towards the end of His earthly ministry Jesus passed on the baton and commissioned His disciples to – Go make disciples of all nations,baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all the things I commanded you and I am with you always. MATT.28:19,20. THE GOAL OF SMALL GROUPS – TO MAKE DISCIPLES.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE?
How do small groups facilitate in making disciples?What role or purpose do they play?
1.CONNECTING WITH GOD.
Go make disciples…..Small groups provide an opportunity to invite others to follow and get to know Jesus.People can come together with something in common eg.Sport,fitness,motorbikes,baking,parenting,kids or just a cup of coffee.Relationships are formed and opportunities arise for believers to introduce Jesus.A simple prayer or short testimony should be included.Look for innovative ways to reach others.
2.LIVE AND LEARN.
Teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you…. Jesus not only taught by what He said but by what He did and how He lived.He sat with them and taught applying Scriptures.Jesus also as they travelled observed things around them,met people,faced circumstances and used every opportunity to teach them.They asked questions and sometimes challenged Him.He responded in showing them Gods ways.The disciples not only gained knowledge but their thinking changed and they grew in character. D.L.Moody – Discipleship is not in the information but the transformation. Small groups help us learn from each other and help us take small steps which are significant in our season.We can learn from others who are a little ahead of us in their journey with God and life. Iron sharpens iron. PROV.27:17.
Change happens in the context of relationships and community sustains your walk with God. Doug Fields – In the Early Church fellowship was more relational than recreational.Small groups help cement relationships,develop friendships,experience love and live life together. The early believers shared,praised,prayed,broke bread and continued in the Apostles teaching. ACTS2:42-47.
We need each other – Confess sin to one another JAS.5:16 ,Serve one another GAL.5:13 , Accept one another ROM.15:17 , Forgive one another COL.3:13 , Greet one another ROM.16:16 , Bear one anothers burdens GAL.6:2 , Be devoted to one another ROM.12:10 , Honour one another ROM.12:10 , Teach one another ROM15:14 , Submit to one another EPHES.5:21 , Encourage one another 1THESS.5:11. Small groups help us to be devoted to one another rather than distant from each other.Every group member is important and when joined together speaking the truth in love cause growth. EPHES.4:15,16.
4.EXPERIENCING INTIMACY WITH GOD.
The love of God and the Holy Spirit within each of us will teach and encourage us to be drawn closer to Jesus. He will be present. When two or three get together in My name I am present. MATT.18:20.
THE PURPOSE OF SMALL GROUPS – To provide opportunities for people to connect in relationships that encourage growth and to take the next steps in their experience with God.
When it comes to worshipping God corporately as His church Christians have often debated on whether it should be to a set pattern and plan or left open and spontaneous.As individuals should we have set times or prayer like first thing in the morning or just pray as we live life such as when driving the car or as needs arise.Why not both? Worship which is scheduled and spontaneous.Here is a parallel…It is important for husbands and wives as their lives become busy to set aside time to be together alone.Hectic lifestyles develop with work,kids,house and hobbies so it`s necessary for couples to have time for each other.Date nights for continued friendship,fun,communication and intimacy.A time to show worth and value to the other and not allowing other things or people get in between and cause a distant relationship.Believers who love God with all their heart and follow Jesus Christ soo too should spend time alone with Him.Don`t allow others or things cause our relationship with Him become distant.God first.Show Him value and worth settting time to be alone with Him.Worship God not just in the company of others eg church but alone.Intimate fellowship with Him-speaking,hearing,seeing and sometimes just being in His presence.We call it sometimes personal devotion or `quiet time` but it`s time alone one to one.
Back to the parallel – for a couple however set date nights can become just a routine and another thing on the calendar.For couples it is so important to have those spontantaneous times when off the cuff they do something together.Seizing the moment,springing a surprise,going or doing something not been or done before.Quite often those spontaneous intimate times together are remembered and cherished as special.In our relationship with God we too will remember those spontaneous times when we get alone with God.A time when we walk in the woods and talk,lift an instrument play and sing new songs,shout aloud to God on top of a mountain or suddenly stop the car and begin to write down what He says to us.Unplanned and unsheduled but prompted by a desire within for intimate worship.
Corporately when the church meets leaders lead worship having prepared,ready and planned hymns and spiritual songs.I`ve learned God directs our plans when we invite Him to give us wisdom and direction but also we need to give Him space.There are times for the spontaneous allowing the Spirit to do as He wills,making room for gifts of the Spirit.Such moments produce new songs and a “now” Word from God.Specific for the moment.
In our worship of God both individualy and corporately make room for the scheduled and spontaneous in our lives.Enjoy the benefits and priviledge of knowing Him.
It goes without saying the greatest book or library of books is the Bible.God reveals Himself to man.Given by the inspiration of God,full of instruction,teaching,correction,direction and equips.2TIM.3:16,17.The Psalmist in Psalm119 describes its excellence.Love,read,meditate,sing,hear,keep and do it.Like water in a desert,a light in darkness and sweeter than honey is Gods Word.What is your favourite verse or passage??? It is always the last one God recently has spoken to me through.The one that stirs my spirit,grabs my heart,captivates my mind and fires a passionate delight for Him. As you walk with God there grows numerous favourites.
There are other books that have left an impression or made an impact on my life to some degree or other.The following I would recommend worth a read.The list is not exhaustive and does not mean I necessarily agree with everything the writer teaches or believes.Check them out…
THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN BIRTH David Pawson
THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN LIFE Watchman Nee
THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE Rick Warren
EXPERIENCING GOD Henry T Blackaby/Claude V King
DESTINED FOR THE THRONE Paul E Billheimer
THE HOLY SPIRIT IN YOU Dennis/Rita Bennett
THE RADICAL CHRISTIAN Arthur Wallis
VICTORY OVER DARKNESS Neil T Andreson
BECOMING A CONTAGIOUS CHRISTIAN Bill Hybels/Mark Mittelberg
TOUCHING THE INVISIBLE Norman Grubb
THE PURSUIT OF GOD A W Tozer
SURPRISED BY THE VOICE OF GOD Jack Deere
GODS CHOSEN FAST Arthur Wallis
THINKING FOR A CHANGE John C Maxwell
YOUR MONEY COUNTS Mark Lloydbottom
THE PILGRIM CHURCH E H Broadbent
THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH Watchman Nee
SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP J Oswald Sanders
THE MAKING OF A LEADER Frank Damazio
RESTORATION IN THE CHURCH Terry Virgo
WHAT ON EARTH THIS KINGDOM? Gerald Coates
RAIN FROM HEAVEN Arthur Wallis
THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE BIBLE John Rea
UNLOCKING THE BIBLE David Pawson
THE SPIRITUAL MAN Watchman Nee
CHRIST THE HEALER F F Bosworth
WHAT WIVES WISH THEIR HUSBANDS KNEW ABOUT WOMAN James Dobson
THE SIXTY MINUTE MARRIAGE Rob Parsons
THE SIXTY MINUTE FATHER Rob Parsons
THE RAPTURE Richard R Reiter/Paul D Feinberg/Gleason L Archer/Douglas Moo
THE MEANING OF THE MILLENNIUM EDITOR:Robert G Clouse
REVELATION FOUR VIEWS : PARALLEL COMMENTARY EDITOR:Steve Gregg