January 31, 2012

How-to: Rev the Engine of Your Small Group


Before you risk cruising down the same old small group rut, why don’t you take some time to pop the hood and run a quick diagnostic on your leadership strategy.

People definitely grow best in groups, as every small group guru will attest, but every group doesn’t grow people well. Like most everything else, effective small group leadership requires periodic tune-ups and tweaking.

So, here’s a four-point inspection that might help out.

1. Community: Hebrews 10:24-25
Someone has said “relationship” is the most important word in the human language. As the verse above reminds us, people need consistent encouragement and mutual motivation to love and good deeds. Think honestly about how well your group is building community among one another.

  • Is the group format contributing to relationship development?
  • Is the teaching style inviting more participation or less?
  • Are new people getting connected, not just with the leaders, but also with others in the group?
  • How much communication is happening outside of designated group times?

Of course, you can’t make people become intimate friends, but you can put people first, create a venue for authenticity, and model hospitality and genuine friendship.

2. Content: 2 Timothy 3:14-16
Whether your group is a Bible fellowship, a topical faith formation group, or a prayer and support group, the content of the teaching should be accurate, interesting and relevant. Good planning will guard against the content getting stale, suffering from lack of preparation, or straying into irrelevancy.

  • How does your content contribute toward developing a well-rounded knowledge of scripture?
  • How does it fit into your church’s ministry plan for the year?
  • Does your content speak to the context your members are living in every day?
  • Is your teaching strong on application and practical Christian living?
  • Do you acknowledge and invite doubt, difficult questions, ambivalence and diverse views?
  • How can your content better lead people to make lasting personal changes and engage the needs of the world?

3. Care: 1 Peter 1:22
I learned long ago that people will endure many failings or faults in church life if they feel cared for. Caring really is the litmus test for all friendships.

  • What can you do to encourage group members this year to help one another, pray for one another, and do life together?
  • How well is your group identifying and leveraging “caring gifts” among the members, such as hospitality, helps, mercy and discernment?
  • Do you have communication structures in place that promote caring, such as social media groups, email or texted prayer requests, or care calendars that organize check-ins on group members?
  • Are the women caring for one another but the men are not?
  • Are you sensitive to the different ways that people are comfortable being cared for?

4. Commission: John 3:17
The best question is not, “Can your muscle car get your group to the finish line with power, comfort and style?” Better to consider, “Who else are you taking with you?” Most of us have experienced the life cycle of groups where the once welcoming and faith-sharing group becomes closed and clique-ish.

  • How can you reignite a concern for your neighbors, coworkers and God-ordained relationships that could develop this year?
  • Has everyone in the group heard one another’s spiritual story?
  • Are they confident in sharing their story with someone who needs encouragement to faith?
  • Are you cultivating a group culture of grace, spiritual conversation and intentional actions to extend grace to those in your circles of influence?

After some careful planning, may your small group roar off the line this year. May your tank be full, your tunes be rocking and your track be smooth.

[CC Image • Simon Davison on Flickr]

Originally Published: January 31, 2012
Category: Christian Living
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