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 look at three areas where change can take place.
1.Stopping a group without feeling guilty.
As a group leader you may need to stop leading 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 same 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 don’t 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 good listeners and learn 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.Invite 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 consistent rhythm 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 their 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 everyone to participate.(30% talking 70% listening).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.