Scripture commands believers to meet together (Heb 10:24-25) for mutual edification. Regardless of what you call the group, meeting together with a group of believers smaller than what you probably experience in church worship is essential for growth.
In order to have successful groups, your group must focus on having the right elements:
- THE RIGHT LEADER. It is imperative to place godly, solid leaders over your group. Not only will these leaders assume the serious responsibility of teaching God’s Word (James 3:1), but they will also serve in the capacity of a shepherd watching over the members’ spiritual well-beings (Heb. 13:17). The leaders doesn’t have to have a seminary degree, but they do need to be consistent hearers and doers of the Word themselves (James 1:22).
- THE RIGHT NUMBER. The right number of participants is critical to the success of a small group. Some people like being a part of a larger group where there is little pressure for each person to contribute to the conversation. Others like being part of a smaller group where you can know each person. For certain studies, it is important that the group is small enough that each person can feel safe to be honest. Just realize that people will be absent from time to time, so if you make the group too small, you might have an awkward meeting when a few are missing. If the group is too large, you may risk not getting to know each person and some may end up inactive with no one checking on them.
- THE RIGHT TIME. More churches are providing different options for meeting times which provide more people a chance to participate in small groups. Everyone has scheduling conflicts, so find the right time for your group to meet. To ensure good conversation, try to allow some buffer time in between the end time and the next thing to which the participants have to be (worship service, picking children up from nursery, etc.). Considering the timing, make sure that you either have childcare provided or directions to get childcare for the time.
- THE RIGHT LOCATION. In order to make your small group work, make sure everyone in the group knows how to find you. Meeting in either a church building or someone’s home will work fine. While it shouldn’t matter where you meet, it really does matter. Environments do a funny thing to us. Some groups feel stuffy in certain places and open up in others. If your group is small, don’t meet in a room too big. If you don’t want it feel like a class, don’t set it up like a classroom.
- THE RIGHT DYNAMIC. When groups begin to meet together and share life, the leader will need to set the expectations for the group dynamic. Share that you will lead to facilitate discussion but that you won’t be the only person talking. Make sure to avoid closed questions (that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”). Give permission for members to ask questions and to share things and assure them that the group will keep confidence. You also have to make sure that one person doesn’t monopolize the entire time.
- THE RIGHT DIRECTION. Many small groups never move past from being a small gathering for a season to meaningful relationships for a lifetime. If the group is only going through a short study together, the leader needs to provide the right direction for the members once the time is over. Ensuring a group to belong to after a specific study is vital for the long-term growth of a Christian.
- THE RIGHT CONTENT. If you are trying to accomplish more than a book club or a counseling group, make sure that you have the right content in place. Choose something that teaches the Bible and teaches it well. Don’t be afraid to teach doctrine and work your way through the entire counsel of God’s Word (Acts 20:27). Sanctification requires the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17). Don’t water it down or give them cotton-candy curriculum. Get in the Bible!
If you are a group leader, I encourage you to do your best to make this group a success. Don’t get stagnate – shepherd these people!
If you are a group member, I encourage you to do your part to be more than a consumer. Invest your life into others within the group!
If you are not in a group, I encourage you to reconsider. You would be amazed at what sharpening one another could do for you and for others (Prov 27:17).