Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why We Use Semester Cycles for Small Groups

Our current small group semester is coming to an end soon. Most of our groups should finish in the next week or two, just in time for the holidays. December is a time of year when everyone’s calendar gets bloated with holiday activities, so it’s also a good time to take a break from small groups.

Here’s why we use semester cycles and why we take off for the holidays:

1. It gives the small group leader a break! i.e., When leaders give of themselves all the time, eventually they burn out. They need time off to rejuvenate, recharge their batteries, and rest. To be perfectly honest about it, sometimes they need a break from people too.

2. Because of the Stress-and-Relief factor. Meaning time with people and time away from people. This is how you experience spiritual growth. It’s like weight lifting. You lift one day, then you rest. If you lift everyday your muscles will not grow. They need a rest period in-between. In small groups, you sign people up for 90 days. That’s the stress factor. Learning, studying, committing, showing up, and exercising discipline. Spending time with people. There’s stress and tension. It’s a period of being stretched and challenged by God’s Word. Then you take a break. That’s the rest/relief factor. Rest, recuperate, and recover.

If you follow that kind of pattern over a two year period, you will be spiritually stronger, more mature, closer to God, and enjoying your Christian walk better than the person who signs up for a group and attends every week for two years. Essentially, you will go farther and faster by taking breaks than you would if you don’t take a break.

BTW, this also follows the Biblical pattern of the Sabbath: Work six days, take one day off for rest. It also follows the model that Jesus used in His ministry. He spent time with people, and then He spent time away from people.

3. It minimizes "quitting." When groups continue indefinitely without a stopping date in sight, the only way people can get out of the group is by quitting. No one likes to quit. Quitting has a stigma attached to it. When people quit it makes them feel guilty, and those left behind feel rejected. The end-of-semester option allows people to cycle out of the group naturally without any bad feelings.

4. It helps remove leaders who are unfit. Imagine this scenario: a small group leader is not performing well, or is misbehaving, but his group just continues and continues and continues indefinitely. Every person who goes to this group will eventually quit, and will have had such a bad experience that they will never join a small group again. Not good.

Sometimes, and for a variety of reasons, certain group leaders are not successful and should not be allowed to continue (and do damage) any longer. The remedy is found in the semester cycle. When the semester comes to an end that leader’s term of service has also come to an end, and they are simply not allowed to renew for the next semester. This way the small group leader has been cycled out naturally without having to be removed (or fired), and the small group system remains healthy.

5. It creates opportunities for a fresh influx of new people. By having a definite start-up date for the next semester, it allows for an influx of new people. Established groups are more difficult for newcomers to penetrate than new groups. With a new group, or a new beginning, everyone has the chance to get in on the ground floor.