The small group is a unique setting for God to accomplish the purposes He has spelled out for His people in the Scriptures. Small groups, therefore, seem to be uniquely qualified to accomplish the following four-core purposes: Continue reading
Generally speaking, small group leaders, having their own unique spiritual gifts, personality, passion and experiences, can achieve much more by being able to shape the particular purpose that their group will have. This may arise from the strengths you have as a leader (e.g. you are an excellent bible discussion leader, or a very empathetic listener, or a person with a passion for outreach, etc.), or your experiences, or your vision for that group at that time.
The purposes of the small group are synergistic. That is, as one is accomplished, it actually creates the opportunity for others to be accomplished more effectively.
Christian community, when experienced, provides a setting for real spiritual growth. It also provides a willingness and ability to pray and worship and provides a setting for effective outreach. The study and application of God’s word resulting in spiritual growth creates a greater willingness to enter into Christian community, to pray and worship together, and to engage in outreach.
Prayer for one another facilitates Christian community in a powerful way as well as spiritual growth. It is also of course an absolutely effective tool in outreach.
Finally, outreach where faith must be exercise creates a context for spiritual growth, creates a new setting where relationships can grow and provides new opportunities for prayers of thanksgiving and worship of God.
Small groups can provide opportunities for outreach. These outreach opportunities are largely built upon and see their success as a result of the relationships that have been established in the group. Jesus’ words “all men will know you are my disciples, by the love you have for one another” is now recognized by nearly all Christians as a foundational element to Christian witness.
As non-believers see the community we experience, it will begin to realize that Jesus is Lord and we his disciples. Small Groups then, because of the strong Christian Community that can be experienced, are a natural setting for outreach. Outreach is also good for the group because it keeps it from becoming too inward-focused. The groups themselves typically would create these outreach opportunities through “social events” or other activities they might have together or with others that provide low barrier opportunities for unsaved spouses or friends to meet and spend time with members of the group.
Another effective setting is when someone a member knows has a particular need that the group can meet, whether it is a need for service (e.g. paint the house!), particular items, or even just plain old cash. It is important to point out that if a particular group has an emphasis upon outreach, then the group’s unique over-riding purpose might be to reach out to others and the structure of the group will be developed to support that primary purpose.
Prayer is an essential part of our relationship with God as well as a way that we express our worship. Small groups provide a unique opportunity for enhancing prayer and worship in our lives. Specifically, in small groups we can learn from others how to pray and we can experience prayer for ourselves in this group setting.
Prayer is a very unique expression of each person’s relationship to God. As we hear others’ pray, we learn what it means to pray, and what a relationship with God can be like. Prayer in this setting can also be unique because it can be directed for others in the group, as a means of expressing faith toward God and love for others at the same time.
Prayer for others’ communicated needs is a powerful expression of the love of God. Music can be introduced into the group and singing can be integrated into the group life at the right time as an expression of worship. As has been seen here, prayer and worship can also facilitate and accomplish the first two purposes of a small group as well: building Christian community and facilitating spiritual growth.
As we look at the Scriptures we see that spiritual growth is one of the primary purposes of the church. Jesus told the parables of the soils. The point he was making was that the growth of the plant was dependent upon the seed as well as the soil. The seed is surely a symbol of God’s word. God’s word affirms elsewhere that an understanding of His word is necessary for spiritual growth to occur (I Pet. 2:2).
Small groups provide a perfect setting to study and discuss God’s word, not only its meaning but also its application to our lives. Spiritual growth is also certainly dependent upon the type of soil it falls. The soil refers to the hearts of you and I. We must not have hard hearts but receptive hearts, eager to learn and obey the Scriptures out of love for Christ. Continue reading
Spiritual growth is all about growing in one’s relationship with God, thereby requiring growth in love, faith, hope, obedience, dependence, and prayer. An honest look at our spiritual lives quickly brings us to realize that this doesn’t just happen from hearing God’s word taught on a Sunday morning.
Although that is needed, and is a critical part of our spiritual growth, so much more must take place for us to continue to surrender the areas of our lives to him for his guidance and control. This happens in a unique way in small groups. Continue reading
Biblical fellowship, or what I call here “community”, is the relationships that exist when believers are, because they are members of one another and a part of God’s family together, are living out and fulfilling God’s wishes, commands, and principles in relationship to one another. That is, they are bearing one another’s burdens, serving one another, forgiving one another, loving one another, being patient with one another, etc. They are using their gifts in ministry for the benefit of one another. Continue reading
God designed us to live in relationship to him and in relationship to one another. Today we live in a society where people have grown up not experiencing healthy relationships with others. Literally, they don’t know what it means to love another, to serve, to trust, to forgive or even to be a real part of other’s lives outside of their immediate family (which is often not healthy). Small groups provide a laboratory for them to learn and experience this kind of community that they have never seen nor experienced before. Several factors in today’s culture, as compared with previous generations, makes the need for structures to learn to experience Christian Community even stronger:
- Two parent families are becoming rare, television and the internet are our children’s chief companions;
- Job “community” is no more because job security is non-existent and people change careers quite often throughout their lives;
- The neighborhood as a place of community is no more – most people don’t even know their neighbors;
- People are mobile and move from one location to another, making the development of friendships difficult if not impossible;
- We have become a spectator culture where “reality TV” has replaced reality. Pseudo-community is much easier; Continue reading
To determine how small groups will fit into the overall purpose of the church is of paramount importance. It may be somewhat different depending upon the size of the church, the location of the church, and the particular culture that church is found in. However to understand the possibilities for small group purposes, we must first understand the overall purpose of the church. Although people group the church’s purposes somewhat differently and go by different names, the church’s purposes generally fall into the following:
- Evangelism (relationship and ministry to non-believers)
- Fellowship (relationships with one another)
- Worship (relationship and submission to God)
- Edification (ministry to one another for spiritual growth)
A word should be said about “church growth.” Continue reading