…of leading one of the small groups at my church. If you have never heard of what a small group is, let me interview myself and I’ll explain…
What is your definition of a church small group?
Small groups is a way of helping the people in a local church body connect… especially when the body is growing quickly to the point that you cannot remember everyone’s name, there aren’t enough hours in the day for the pastor to talk to everyone, and, as an individual, you start to feel lost in the sea of people.
What do you mean by connect?
Well, when you go to church on Sunday, a larger church body allows you the opportunity to put on a smile, walk through those doors, find a seat, sing, listen to the message, and walk out again without ever really talking to anyone. It’s a fact that it is easier to be alone in a large crowd than a smaller gathering.
And with no interaction, who gets to know the issues that you are struggling with? Who holds your hand when you are down and hurting? Who encourages you when you need to hear that someone has overcome the same issue and know the victory in it through Christ Jesus? Who crowds around you, when you are hurting, and lays hands on you to pray for healing? Who remembers your name when they are with the King and calls on His mercy and power to intervene in your life? Who knows you well enough that they can hear in your voice that everything is not “all right” no matter what you say – and takes the time to pray specifically for you?
Who will be the other – who stands in agreement with you – when asking things of God? (Matthew 18:19)
That’s being connected. That’s being part of a spiritual family unit!
What do small groups do?
A small group can be different things for different groups of people. In the small group my wife and I lead, we always have a big meal together with our spiritual family. We fellowship, get to know each other on a social level, we joke, we laugh, we talk some politics, we talk sports, we talk about our kids (who are also there as well) and just take time to be together as a family.
Time is then set aside specifically for worshiping God with some music which then segues into a time of worshiping God by telling each other what He has done in our lives since the last time we met. This is my favorite part… Answered prayers, healings, examples of how He has shown us His glory, victories over obstacles, and more are shared around the circle as He lifts our faith with the hearing of His words and deeds in our lives. I can tell you that hearing others in my group relating stories of how He has impacted their life has strengthened my life and I know that everyone else feels the same way. In a nutshell, this is a time set aside to literally brag on God and how awesome He is!
Next, we open the Word, usually discussing topics that are in direct correlation with what our Pastor is currently teaching on Sundays or Wednesdays. Because we all have a different life experience, each of us hears the Sunday message a little differently. As we discuss these things, we have the opportunity to see more than one dimension.
As an example of what I mean, I look to those 3-D puzzles that have become available in the past few years. Where puzzles used to be one-dimensional, flat, and from a single optical perspective, 3-D puzzles are full, almost lifelike, real structures that cannot fully appreciated from a single static position. Each item of the puzzle is not visible by the eye, so you must actually move around the structure to observe every piece.
This is the same in a small group discussion… I see the point according to my perspective. My wife may have a similar, but still different take. The pieces connect – as puzzle pieces should – but because there is more than one perspective, the message takes on a more robust shape. And… as others pipe up and contribute to the discussion, the message becomes this living 3-D tool that can be applied in our daily lives!
Yes, sometimes there are skewed views, but we work through those in love, helping that person to see what they may have missed. But on a whole, this process gives us an opportunity to see all that we might have missed. I am not perfect. I miss things. It’s a true pleasure to be able to see what I missed and apply that as well to my life!
The last thing we do is pray for each other. Prayer requests are lifted up. Healing is prayed for and received. Lives are changed by God’s power! This is the double-cream cheese frosting on the cake…
When the time is over, more fellowship happens. At this point, we are connecting on every level. Our hearts are open, our spirits light. More hugs. More eating. More laughing. There is a sweetness in the air. My eyes tear up just thinking about it.
What about doing things?
In our small group, the kids outnumber the adults, so we tend to do things that kids will enjoy as well…
This usually means, pool parties. Fill the pool, crank up the grill, and ice up the drinks and you always have a recipe for fun!
I know that other groups do a myriad of things – golf, bowling, movies, game nights, book discussions, restaurant night, etc….
I would say that each group has its own personality, adjusting to the similar likes of the members as a whole.
How has God moved in your small group?
My pastor has made some vision statements for our church body that I adhere to as a rule any time I am acting in the position he has allowed me to fill:
1. Our church is a place where the body ministers to the body…
This is my greatest responsibility. My Pastor is busy. There are too many people and too few hours for him to visit with and personally connect on a daily basis. For those who God has assigned to us, that job has been delegated to my wife and I. And, over the past few years, that vision has been picked up by each member in our small group family. When it is time to pray for each other, each one has grown from a timid believer into one who knows they are a reflector of Holy Spirit in them and are unafraid to let Him use them. By emulating our leadership, we are learning together, how to be strong leaders in Christ – unafraid, unapologetic, in love with their God and Savior. Most of my group are also part of the ministry team that prays with and assists those who come down to the altar when my Pastor makes the call.
2. It is a place that makes a lasting impression on the life of a child…
When a new family starts connecting with a small group, it is often the children that goad their parents into coming. Why? Well, in our group, for example, we have kids of every age group. We have a large backyard with amenities that are fun for kids of all ages. But even more than the physical things, the kids are connecting on their own level. They are making friends and relationships with kids whose parents are striving to live a Godly lifestyle. Yes, there are squabbles from time to time, but those arguments are the perfect opportunity for the parents -in real time- to teach their kidlets the way to connect and resolve conflicts.
I can see the changes in the kids just as I can the adults. In fact, the kids are more likely to bring friends than the adults! This just gives us an opportunity to share the love of Jesus to someone who may have never had the chance otherwise.
3. Love God. Love People. Live Life.
As a daily mission in life, I cannot think of a more succinct way of being.
I used to think God, Family, Work when deciding how to live my life… Now, I see that God is an element in all things of life, not just a singular part.
This small group is the way God has incorporated himself into my life, and to each of my immediate spiritual family as well. We are learning to infuse God into our every day lives in everything. God is not just part of our lifestyle, He is the glue that holds everything together. We look to him for everything – OK, not everything… I don’t need to pray about it when someone needs a helping hand, or whether I should have pizza or spaghetti for supper… Rather, I look to him as my Supply. My Strong Tower. My Protector. And thanks to His plan for sacrificing His Son, my Redeemer. Everyday I live my life knowing that without him I am nothing. With Him, I am more than a conqueror!
4. Helping people become fully engaged in their walk with God. (a.k.a. Moving Forward)
This last Sunday evening, we had our last meeting for the next two months. We have been leading this group for five years and as the discussion was unfolding around the room, I looked at each person, each couple, each relationship, and noted how things have changed over that time…
One couple said they were about to leave the church because their needs weren’t being fulfilled. That was four years ago.
Another was dealing with anger issues – God has restored his marriage and relationship with his kids!
Individuals who were what I would consider a “mess” when they started connecting… totally uncharacteristic of them now.
Healing of backs, bones, asthma, knees, and other parts… healthy and whole!
Relationships between family members, parents and children, each other – healed healed healed!
Lives lived in fear and worry are now lives lived in knowledge that God is their Source!
All this is a result of realizing that we are reflectors of Holy Spirit who lives in us. All we did was open our home willingly, He did the rest.
How has being a small group leader affected your life?
For me, the greatest benefit has been my own personal growth. When people are hitting you with questions you don’t know the answer to and needing guidance on topics that you have no experience in, it is humbling.
I have had to live the talk.
I have had to study to find the scriptures that relate to their situation. I can’t tell them what to do, I can only lead them to what the Work says about that situation.
I have had to pray for people who may have rubbed me the wrong way, but am still responsible to my God for.
I have had to pay closer attention to what my Pastor says and does and emulate.
I have had to step into the vision that God has given my local shepherd to be sure that I am honoring the position I have been given.
I have had to grow… even when I didn’t feel like it.
I have become a member of the Salt and Light Brigade.
In return for my diligence, God has blessed me and my household. My wife and I have close, personal friends that we trust. My children have playmates that I feel comfortable around because I know their parents.
I have moved forward in my life – and when I look back, there is nothing for me there. It is as if the memory was just a dream.
If you have a desire to be a small group leader, think of this:
If you love God… If you desire His presence in your life… If you have daily struggles in your life, but are diligently pulling out the weeds with prayer and submission to God’s will for you… If your heart cries when you think of a new person falling away because he or she didn’t know anyone… If you want to make a real difference in peoples lives…
Take a risk on God!
He will give you EVERYTHING you need if you allow him to.
As of this moment in my life, accepting the challenge of small group leadership has been one of the greatest, rewarding, humbling, blessed, and fun experiences I have ever had!
Go for it!