Why Small Groups? Take This Group and Own It

Currently, I'm trying to post once or twice a week summaries of chapters from books I've read over the past few years. These are the books that have really informed my thinking on discipleship and small groups. Hopefully, they'll provide a good opportunity for you to think through some of these same thoughts.

Today, I'm looking at chapter three from the book Why Small Groups, a collection of small group essays compiled by C.J. Mahaney. This chapter, by Greg Somerville, is entitled, "Take This Group and Own It."

The big idea of this chapter is that a successful group is a group in which the members of the group take ownership of the group instead of simply relying on the group's leader to "make it happen." Somerville suggests three questions the members of a small group should ask themselves as they consider whether or not a healthy "ownership culture" exists in their group:
  • Do you think of your group as YOUR group?
  • Do you OWN your group and its vision?
  • Or, do you simply rent a chair on Thursday (insert your night) evenings?
Somerville says, "A small group doesn't belong to the leader. It belongs to God -- and to each member."

Attempting to help develop a biblical understand for Christian community, Somerville looks at 1 Peter 4:7-10 as a key teaching passage to help define the appropriate behavior for small group members.
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
Notice the clear list Peter gives us to help us understand how we should behave in our relationships with one another:
  • be clear minded
  • be self-controlled
  • love each other deeply (particularly as you look past each other's sins)
  • offer hospitality
  • use your gifts to serve each other
  • be gracious
A group that lives by this passage will most certainly be a wonderful community in which to share life. The fruit of a list like this is group ownership. If each group member takes it upon themselves to act this way, the group will function very efficiently. Somerville, closes out his essay with a long list of suggested contributions every group member should make to the group. Here is a summary:
  • Hunger to know God
  • Love for the unity of the church
  • Understand your "job description" as a group member
  • Assume your leader is not Sherlock Holmes (be willing to share, don't make him/her dig)
  • Share the bad stuff also
  • Have realistic expectations
  • Meet outside the meeting
  • Open your home
  • Open you mouth
  • Be constructive, not destructive
  • Laugh at the leader's jokes
  • Serve on the "advisory committee" (give your leader feedback)
  • Pray on the way
  • Give your gifts
  • Volunteer to serve
  • Expect "awe-full" meetings (anticipate meeting with God when you meet with your group)
  • Keep the mission in mind
Somerville's closing words are important:
It doesn't take a highly gifted leader to build a great group. It takes you. You must own it. You must pray for it and invest in it. Whether you feel qualified or not, you and every other group member must "use whatever gift he has received to serve others."