How should our small groups function? The answer is simple: groups should be safe, comfortable places where individuals have the opportunity to make new friends, learn something, and grow spiritually within a social context. Here are three steps you can take to make sure your small groups are structured for relational success.
- Have specific beginning and end dates for your small groups. At The Journey, our groups last 10 to 12 weeks. This gives people the freedom and flexibility to make a commitment they can stick with. Then, if a few people connect and become good friends, they can choose to be in a group together again the next semester. And eventually, they also continue to develop their relationships and accountability outside of the group. But if the people in the group do not hit it off with one another, they are not forced to stay together past the group’s end date.
- Let your group leaders know what success looks like. Make sure they don’t feel any pressure to create deep relationships between group members. Don’t let them think that if everyone isn’t crying together, sharing intimate details of their lives, or getting together outside of group meetings, they have failed. They haven’t. Teach leaders that their small group is a success when the Bible is being applied in a practical way to the lives of those in the group and everyone in the group is praying together throughout the semester. That’s it! That’s all!
- Promote your groups as a social space – as a safe place to meet new people, make friends, grow in faith, and have fun. Don’t promise life-changing, intimate relationships. First of all, if you can’t make that promise and can’t deliver (which you can’t), people will leave the group feeling like it was a failure and won’t want to join again. Second, most people don’t want to sign up for a mushy kind of group anyway. Instead, promote your groups as a social space and watch your sign-ups sore.
Remind yourself often that you cannot engineer deep relationships in your groups. That’s not your job anyway; it’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Your job is to create effective social spaces where people can meet new friends and learn about God with like-minded others. When you do that, the personal intimate relationships you want your people to develop will happen naturally. No, this thinking is not conventional. But then again, neither is God.
– Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas, with Jennifer Dykes Henson
The above excerpt is from pgs. 46-47 of Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups.
Drawing from the startling success of small groups at The Journey Church, Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas debunk the myths, set the record straight, and show how church leaders can implement a healthy small group ministry that gets the maximum number of people involved and solves many of the important problems facing churches of all sizes. These practical strategies will produce life-changing results.
Your partner in ministry,
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