September 26, 2009 by

5 Priorities for Small Groups.

Categories: Ministry Tips, Small Groups, Tags: , , , , , ,

5 essentials by which a small group can measure themselves to evaluate their potential of being the kind of faith community where Christ's presence is exalted, Christ's power is experienced, and Christ's purpose is expressed.

I have participated in, led or overseen small groups in some form since I was in high school. I have seen a variety of iterations, philosophies, movements, paradigms, ad infinitum. As a church leader, I have reconfigured, recast, retooled, restarted, and retired groups based on the call for effectiveness toward transformation. Though there have been a lot of changes, there has also been some consistent elements that keep coming to the surface for me and represent the “city on the hill” of what this venue of transformation can be.

It always keeps coming back to my regular reading, meditation and application in the principles of, what I consider, the foundational small group passage in Scripture from Acts 2:42-47.

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

I don’t think I shall ever fully understand this passage since their context is so foreign to us here and now in the West, but when I look back on my own history with small groups — groups that worked well or not at all, groups that came close to the ideal and groups that wanted little to do with that dream — I have identified 5 major components or priorities that I see in the portrait of this 1st century biblical community that I believe must be operative in contemporary communities of faith if they are to foster an environment for conducive for transformation.

Truth: letting God speak. This is where participants consistently, diligently, engage in the study, meditation, and application of God’s Word, The Bible, both individually and corporately. The objective is to be faithful and obedient to the Living Word of God in Christ as we submit our lives to His Written Word, the Holy Scriptures.

Transparency: letting people speak. Unless people are free to share what is going on in their lives, intimacy and thus, development as a person or group is impossible. Transparency is where people are encouraged to be truthful about who they are — truthful to God and others. Without this, the truth of God through His Word becomes informational rather than transformational and the small group becomes a gathering of people rather a transformational community of faith, hope and love.

Trust: mutual security in freedom. This essential is risky but must precede transparency in some degree. It is a willingness to assume the goodwill in others and operate on that basis in the offering of myself to those I am involved with. It is to willingly allow others access to the deeper recesses of my life in progressive confidence of their respect of and love for me.

Time: readjusting schedules to facilitate community. Intimacy, like maturity, develops over time, but that time is intentional. Development of character and community must be allowed to occur beyond set time frames and meeting times. We must not merely take time, but make time to love properly and to see others for who they are.

Task: group participation in common ministry projects. People experience a different aspect of growth when they commit themselves to accomplishing something together. This allows for a different part of their personality to emerge and to build better cohesion to the community.

So, for members and leaders of small groups, are you effectively, consistently and intentionally…

…engaging God’s Word individually and corporately in a way that informs and impacts your live with TRUTH?

…taking TIME to be together slowing down enough to hear and know and to find rest in Christ with one another?

…working together to build an atmosphere of TRUST where members can be TRANSPARENT with each other, bringing the truth of their lives into the life of the group?

…working together mutually on a meaningful TASK that enables you to see a different side of yourselves but also celebrate what you can accomplish together as a team?

This is not at all meant to be an exhaustive list but, again, my perspective of the essentials by which a small group can evaluate their potential of being that kind of faith community where Christ’s presence is exalted,  Christ’s power is experienced, and Christ’s purpose is expressed.

(Soon you will be able to click on the “T”s and access an individual post for that particular priority giving you further insights and practical applications as it applies to the small group environment.)

One Response to 5 Priorities for Small Groups.

  1. Todd Carpenter

    Jonathan, I am constantly amazed when I place our group in God's hand what He does. I prepare in study, but I find the preparation in prayer and willingness to trust in His grace bring about amazing things. So far I would not trade our journey. We have many issues in our lives, but we practice a safe environment. Safe to divulge our lives, safe to ask any question, safe to give opinions, and safe place to learn and a safe place to trust and depend on Him with others, 1John and now starting Galatians have provided marvelous platforms for understanding who He is and therefore who we are.