Our small group programme re-launched last week after a break over the summer. Wonderfully we’ve got lots of people who are new to the CCB small group culture. And so I thought I’d share with you five convictions that have shaped and strengthened that over the years.
So here are five principles that’ll help you get the most from the small group experience
1. Pitch up week after week
Small groups die through non-attendance. They need everyone to be absolutely committed to being there if they’re going to have a chance of really working. The first few weeks are inevitably awkward as people get to know one another. I’m not sure there’s any way to avoid that. But the time will come when everyone feels comfortable with one another and we can’t imagine why we wouldn’t want to get together with the rest of our group. But if people are infrequent and unreliable in their attendance, sending in an apologetic text moments before the group starts, then that messes with the group vibe! There’ll sometimes be unavoidable reasons why you can’t make it. Of course. When our employers require us to fulfil a work commitment, our groups get that. But it speaks volumes if they know that, given the choice, you wouldn’t miss your group for the world.
2. Participate in the discussion
Small groups die when no one contributes. They need their group members to get involved. So don’t be a spectator simply observing what everyone else is doing. Ask your questions. Make your point. Disagree. Help the group come alive through stimulating interaction. If you just look on then it’ll be the longest ninety minutes of your life. But if you’re actively participating you’ll get to half nine, wonder where the time has gone and wish it could go on longer. Not everyone is comfortable making a contribution in a large gathering of unfamiliar people. But hopefully you’ll get to know one another as the weeks go by. And any small group leader worth his or her salt will break the group down from time to time to encourage those of us who don’t like holding forth in a group to open our mouths and say something. And the group works best when we’re all involved.
3. Prepare in advance
Small groups die from lack of application. They need their group members to be asking ‘what does understanding this mean for us?’ and ‘What does this look like in practice?’ The purpose of small groups is not merely that you understand the content of the book of Exodus, for example. A complete pagan could do that and then lecture on it. And they could get it completely right. It’s all about getting to the place where we’re thinking through and praying about the implications. But if no one has done any work on the text then the danger is that most of the group time is spent understanding what it says rather than what it means. We’re all busy. And we’ve got lots on our plate. But is it too much to ask to read through the passage we’re going to study in our group before we actually get there? Imagine how much better your time would go if everyone had made some progress in thinking about what the passage is about and what the passage implies. You could then spend much more time in your group grappling with what we’re meant to do with it.
4. Pray in and for the group
Small groups die through lack of prayer. They need their group members to pray in them when they’re there and for them when they’re not. Small groups aren’t merely a gathering of friends with a common interest. It’s not like a five a-side footy team who happen to be committed to one another because they love playing footy. It’s a group of people committed to encouraging one another. And one principal way that we can do that is by responding in prayer. I’m not talking about the sharing of personal prayer requests, even though that’s important. I’m talking about praying in faith and repentance in the light of what the Lord has just spoken about in His word. It’s when we pray about the issues that have been raised in the study that we demonstrate that we’re serious about living with Jesus as Saviour and Lord. This is the barometer of the spiritual atmosphere in our group. It’s hard to pray in front of a group of people whom we don’t know very well. But that’ll change. And in the meantime you can serve your group by praying them in private on your own.
5. Personally care for one another
Small groups die through lack of concern for one another. They need their group members to be interested and involved in one another’s lives. I’m not talking about being meddling and intrusive. I’m talking about providing friendship, encouragement and perhaps even the gentle correction that we all need if we’re going to make progress in our Christian lives. We all have friendships. Some of us have lots of friends. And some of those will be Christian mates. But London can be a lonely place even for the most gregarious among us. And there’s something special about the bond that the Spirit creates between fellow church members. So get involved in each others’ lives in a good way!
There you go, five ways to get the best from your small group experience. But that’s not really the issue, is it? If every member of a small group was asking and answering a different question, we might not have needed this post. That question? How can I give my best to the small group experience.