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.
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.
During life at times we face situations in relationships,family,work,finances,church and ministry when we just do not know what to do.We either don`t know what choice to make or there is a lack of them.Sometimes we know what to do but questioning ourselves we end up being convinced we really don`t know what to do.So what should we do?
image courtesy of Stuart Mlies at FreeDigitalPhotos.com
Don`t panic,quit,run or hide.When in the dark reach out to God in trust.A child in uncertain surroundings slips their hand into their parents hand in trust.PSA.37:3,5 Trust in God….feed on His faithfulness….commit you way to the Lord.Trust also in Him.PRV.3:5,6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart.Lean not on your own understanding.In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.
We often focus on the problem of not knowing,over thinking it or we ask others including family and friends accumulating `opinions` BEFORE we ask God.Ask God FIRST.God does not want to keep you in the dark. JAS.1:5If any of you lack wisdom let him ask God who gives liberally.
3.DO WHAT GOD LAST TOLD YOU.
Do not let what you don`t know paralyse you from doing what you do know already to do.Whatever He has already revealed to you keep doing it.It is easier to steer a ship when it is moving. JAS.1:25 Don`t be a forgetful hearer.Be a doer.
4.MAJOR ON YOUR STRENGTHS.
What are you good at and what do you enjoy?God has given you talents and gifts that are unique to you.Spend your time on your strengths.Follow the 80/20% rule.Spend 80% of your time on your top 20% activities-John Maxwell.1COR.12:7,11 The Holy Spirit has given each of us gifts. Everything made has a purpose.The way you are is for the why you are. Eph.2:10 You are His workmanship and He has works prepared for you.
5.LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE.
Did I face this situation before?What worked?What mistakes did I make?Broaden your experience by learning from the experience of others.Receive insight from those who are a stage ahead of you.Learn from others successes and from their mistakes.John Maxwell-Make it a goal to find people who will add value to you in areas that are important to you. PROV.27:17 Iron sharpens iron. There are two types of people.Those who take and learn from instructions and those who have to learn by making their own mistakes.I would rather learn from others and their mistakes.
6.INCREASE YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF GODS WORD.
Knowledge is power-it increases options,possibilities and the ability to make choices.Know nothing=nothing.How strong is Gods Word in our lives?Read,speak,sing,study and meditate on Gods Word.JOSH.1:8 msg.Don`t for a minute let this book of revelation be out of your mind.Ponder meditate on it day and night making sure you practice everything in it.Then you will get where you are going then you`ll succeed.Without answers you will stay in the dark. PSA.119:105 Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.2TIM.3:16 All Scripture is God breathed profitable for showing truth,correcting
mistakes,providing training and instruction in living Gods way.My dad always said that the Bible was the best Citizen Advice Bureau.Kingdom answers for everyday life.Col.3:16 Let the Word of God dwell in you richly.
7.GET TO KNOW GOD.
Spend time in His presence getting to know God,His nature and heart.Intimacy with God.Worship Him.As you spend time in His company the Holy Spirit will form His character in you guiding you in making decisions.Similarly as a couple get to know each other they become `one flesh` and even when one alone faces a situation they often will know what the other would do in it.The Holy Spirit who is in you will search the deep things of God and teach you. 1COR.2:9-16.Often a married couple will know by the `look` in the eye of their partner what they are saying without them speaking a word.Psa.32:8-9 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.I will guide you with My eye.
Gods people were instructed to tell their children and their children’s children about His covenant and what God had done for them. When they did not remember and testify of what God had done for them in the PAST then in the PRESENT whatever they faced they questioned,limited and did not trust God resulting in their refusing to obey Him. If we forget what God has done in the past for us we may question and not trust God in what we are facing today.Do not forget the wonderful works of God,His strength and goodness.`LOOK WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE`. DAN.4:2 ; PSA.66:16
WHY? IT STIRS HOPE – PSA78:7 that they may set their hope in God.. Whatever circumstance you are in,mountain you face,trial going through,obstacle in your way,when you REMEMBER what God has done in the past-the works of God – it gives you hope for the present – He can do it for you again.
WHY? IT INCREASES FAITH -When about to enter Canaan and they saw the giants-too big for us-full of unbelief they wouldn`t advance. PSA78:42-55 They did not remember questioned God?`Can He…?` v19,20 If we easily forget the powerful works and miracles of God we can be full of unbelief today question and limit Gods ability to work in our lives today.Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Declare,testify and tell of what God has done.Speak of His praises,power and strength.
WHY? IT DISCOURAGES BACKSLIDDING-when Israel forgot what God had done for them they became faithless disobeyed and turned to other gods. If we forget Gods work and goodness to us we can easily become faithless and turn to other things,people and sources for help,strength and answers.Disobedience flows from unbelief. PSA78:57-59
WHY REMEMBER WHAT GOD HAS DONE?- IT GIVES ENCOURAGEMENT IN THE DAY OF BATTLE PSA78:9-11 The children of Ephraim being armed and carrying bows ready for battle turned back-forgot His works and the wonders He had shown them. You can gear of for spiritual battle ready to possess all God has for you but fear,grow weary, lose strength, quit and give up not reminding yourself of what God has done and His power.He has given victory in the past HE WILL TAKE YOU THROUGH INTO VICTORY AGAIN.
REMEMBER `LOOK WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE`