Monday, April 4, 2016

4 Tools Every Small Group Leader Needs

Leading a small group for the first time can be intimidating. Many people are afraid they are not capable, gifted, or intelligent enough to lead a group of people as they follow Jesus together.  I think they are wrong.

Matthew 28:18-20 is often called the “Great Commission”. In these verses, Jesus commissioned His disciples to go and make other disciples. Interestingly, though, He did not tell them to do this in their own power or using their own strength. Rather, He made it clear they would be successful because He has all power. Jesus’ authority is what makes it possible for us to make disciples.

If you are a disciple of Jesus, you have been empowered by Him to make other disciples.

Not everyone can lead a small group, but almost anyone can.

Of course, there are a few qualifications that every small group leader should have:

  • They must be a follower of Christ.
  • They should be a mature enough believer that they know their way around the Bible and can help others understand at the very least the "big story" of God's Word (creation, fall, redemption, restoration).
  • They should be able to avoid awkwardness while carrying on a conversation.
  • They should be willing to be welcoming and inclusive will all who join the group (this will likely require a bit of patience as well).
  • They probably need to be comfortable praying aloud in public.

While these may seem like a lot of qualifications, they really aren't. Anyone who has been a Christ-follower for a year and who has actively participated in a small group of some kind should be able to meet these standards.



Every small group is different. Groups are full of unique people who have unique gifts and bring unique perspectives to the group. Groups meet at different times in different places and for different purposes. Some groups are for women only, some are for men only. Some groups are for singles and some are for couples. Some groups are for young adults and some groups are for retired adults. Some groups are for teenagers. Some groups are for everyone and some groups are for just three people. Every small group is different.

Every small group is the same. Even though groups look differently and act differently, their goal is the same. Small groups, at their best, are a community of people who are sharing their lives with one another in an effort to become more like Christ.


Whether you are leading a men’s group, women’s group, college group, singles’ group, couples’ group, teen group, prayer group, mission group, study group, support group or generic group; if you start with these four tools, you’ll lay a foundation for a successful group.


FANTASTIC FOOD

This may seem a bit shallow, but meals are a very important part of our lives. It's no accident that while on earth, some of Jesus' most important interactions with His followers happened over meals. Something happens to us when we share food with other people. Acquaintances become friends and friends become soul-mates over shared meals. Somehow, the presence of food helps us drop our inhibitions and open ourselves to those with whom we're sharing the meal.


FUN WITH FRIENDS

Friendship in a small group is more than just casual relationships with other people. Small group friendships are the unique type of relationships that Christians can only have with other Christians. It is a special kind of life-sharing that is precipitated by the important things we have in common, namely our faith in Jesus Christ.

Friendships like this don’t just happen. They need to be cultivated. In a healthy small group, the leader will regularly take time to cultivate friendships by building relationships among group members.  A significant period of time should be devoted to relationship building almost every time the group comes together. This is the best way to develop true friendship.


FAITH FORMATION

This is the primary purpose for your group's existence; therefore, it should be the primary focus for the small group leader. While some leaders are capable of preparing an effective Bible study or discussion on their own, most group leaders need help to consistently guide their group in faith-expanding experiences. Fortunately, if you know where to look, you can easily find materials that will work for almost any group.

Small group curriculum comes in many forms. If you take time to look, you will find book studies, Bible studies, topical studies, video-based studies, studies that require homework, and studies that offer a few questions for discussion. As the group leader, you need to know which type of study will work best with your group; and you need to know what subject of study will best help your group expand their faith. The best way to make those determinations is to discuss these matters as a group.


FUTURE FOCUS

The members of a healthy small group share their lives together outside their normal meeting times. A healthy small group has "extra" events bringing them together for purposes beyond studying the Bible. These events may be meals, parties, trips, or better yet, service projects. Taking a small amount of your meeting times on a regular basis will enable your group to develop these kind of extra life-sharing events.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

25 Questions To Get Your Small Group Meeting Started With A Bang!

Small Group effectiveness is significantly impacted by the depth of relationships among the group members. Successful group leaders spend significant time facilitating "life-sharing" relationships. One of my recommendations for group leaders is that they set aside a portion of EVERY group meeting to spend time developing friendships.

Creative questions are one of the most productive tools you can use to encourage group members to talk about themselves. Sometimes, a good question will launch a group down a road of laughter, tears, hugs and incredibly deepened relationships.

I came across the following questions on Pinterest (don't judge me). They were originally designed for a Toastmasters meeting, but many of the would work well in a small group setting. You know your group, so you know which of these would be ideal for launching a meeting. Chew the meat, spit out the bones.

My favorites are:

  • If the average human lifespan was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
  • What's something you know you do differently than everybody else?
  • How come the things that make you happy don't make everyone happy?
  • If we learn from our mistakes, why are we so afraid to make mistakes?




Wednesday, February 10, 2016

You Can Grow Without Being In A Small Group


Formalized small groups aren’t for everyone. Yet, the New Testament clearly commands us to spend time with one another, motivating and encouraging one another to good works (growth).

The following questions can serve as a template for two or three people to have coffee together or for a group of 15 to gather in a home. Wherever your comfort level may be, you should be spending time with believers. Use these questions and use that time to empower growth in one another.



What has God said?
Everything God desires us to know can be discovered in His Word. As we build into one another’s lives, one of the most important topics around which we grow is understanding what God has said to us. Whether you spend 15 minutes reading a passage together or 2 hours digging into one verse; discerning God’s message is critical for spiritual growth. If you aren’t sure how best to answer this question, consider the following ideas:
  • Choose a chapter from Proverbs (or another book) and read it together
  • Agree ahead of time to read a passage, and discuss when you gather
  • Choose one verse and memorize it together
  • Utilize a Bible study resource of some kind to guide your time
  • Use a Bible study tool such as the “SOAPY” study (click the link to learn more)
  • Choose a paragraph of the Bible and together rewrite it in your own words, use it to make a list or choose the 3–5 most important words
However you choose to approach God’s Word, make it the centerpiece of your time together. Hearing from God is the most important thing that can happen to you, ever. Having friends that assist you in hearing is one of the greatest blessings you can receive, ever.

What is God doing?
Whatever is going on in your life, God is doing something. He is not surprised, panicked, concerned or aloof. He IS working. Sometimes we need the counsel of others to help us accurately interpret our life’s happenings. Sharing with one another gives you a wonderful opportunity to see your circumstances from another perspective.

Spend time discussing your victories, your failings, your excitement, your anxiety, your opportunities and your difficulties. John Wesley’s small groups were designed to have these types of conversations. Perhaps you could modify some of their questions for your own use:
  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other
    words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work , or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today?
  7. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
  8. Am I enjoying prayer?
  9. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
  10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  12. Do I disobey God in anything?
  13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  16. How do I spend my spare time?
  17. Am I proud?
  18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the
    publican?
  19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard?
    If so, what am I going to do about it?
  20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?
Wesley’s “bands” also used a smaller, more focused (and more intimate) list:
  1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
  2. What temptations have you met with?
  3. How were you delivered?
  4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
  5. Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?
These questions do not carry any magic. On their own, they cannot accomplish anything. However, these questions (or others like them) can guide your group to discuss their current situations and determine how God may be working in each person’s life.

How can we pray?
This question is fairly straight forward. You should pray together. Pray for one another, pray for those you know, pray for God’s Kingdom to be expanded.


If, on a regular basis, you spend time with other Christians exploring God’s Word, discussing one another’s lives and praying together; you *WILL find yourselves growing. I guarantee it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

When We Serve Together...

Groups with a clear focus have a much higher chance of success.



Friday, January 29, 2016

Science Claims Small Groups Are Good For You!


Many churches consistently push people toward small groups as a vehicle to help them grow. This isn't just a churchy thing, though. "Secular" research also suggests that the people whom we allow to influence us will either drag us down or pull us up to their level.