Saturday, August 29, 2009

Healthy Small Groups (Part 3)

For me, the healthiest kind of small groups could be likened to having company over. Think about that for a moment.

When you invite people over to your house, who (and what kind of people) do you invite? You invite your friends, right? You invite people that you enjoy being with, and those you trust. While together you have dinner, share stories, swap tall tales and just generally relax in each others company. It feels natural, is easy to do, and does not feel forced. You are friends.

Now, do the same thing and simply add in a Bible study or topical discussion and what you have is the best kind of small group possible – having company over with a purpose. Everyone grabs a cup of coffee and visits for a few minutes. Then you gather around in a circle for a Bible study. It is a discussion-type format where you can ask questions or offer some input. This lasts about forty five minutes. Then the group concludes by offering a short prayer. Afterwards, everyone is invited to hang around a little longer for refreshments and finger foods – which everyone does! A lot of laughter and loud conversation fills the air. By the time people leave, everyone feels good and uplifted.

Consider this…. you LIKE the people you are ALREADY hanging out with. Right? You share something in common with them… you are probably in the same age group… share a common life interest… have similar goals… are working on the same projects… have compatible personality types… and have common needs. Why not just have a group with THESE people? Makes sense to me.

Using this philosophy as a model for small groups makes it so enjoyable that almost anyone is willing to get involved; the soccer moms, plumbers, line workers, young professionals, and everyone in-between – regular people. Furthermore, such people WILL make this SHIFT one night a week and commit to a small group because it’s worth their while to do so.

To lead a small group or to be in a group, one does not have to be a Bible teacher, an elder or elder material – just a regular person who is capable of having company over, joining (or leading) a group discussion, and willing to do life together with other like-minded people. Small groups should not feel like another night of work. They should improve your life, not burden it.

What is a healthy small group? A healthy groups is:
  • A group of ten to fifteen people who come together weekly or biweekly to help one another to grow closer to God.

  • A diverse collection of individuals who have some form of affinity (i.e., common interest)

  • A place where people can come as they are, and know that they are accepted with all their faults and failings

  • A safe place. For people to open up and begin to share life together, they must know that their group is a safe environment; what is SAID in the group STAYS in the group.

  • A place that is built upon AUTHENTIC relationships; where people really do like each other and enjoy one another’s company.

  • FUN. If a group is not fun it will not last.

  • A group that multiples by developing other leaders

In order for a group to be effective as a life-changing force, it must have the RIGHT BALANCE in THREE main areas – SHEPHERDING, TEACHING, and FELLOWSHIP. Small groups that focus primarily on one – at the expense of the other two – usually fail.

Through shepherding people belong to a group where they reach out to and help one another. Through teaching people look to the Word of God for guidance and permanent life-change. Through fellowship people develop authentic and lasting relationships that extend outside the walls of the church.

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