5 Key Elements of a Healthy Small Group

Small groups have the power to change lives. A small group that is healthy and focused can be even more effective. So what are the most important aspects that you as a leader can emphasize in order to make the most of your small group to deeply impact both the lives of the members and to spread its good effects far outside the group itself?

1. Scripture

The unity of a small group is founded on its agreement in the Bible. Having access to the Word of God is a privilege, and the unity of a small group can help its members to embrace it as a personal letter from God. Small groups can be a safe place for those who are unfamiliar with the Scriptures to be able to cultivate a desire to learn and grow in the Truth. (See 2 Peter 3:18.) It is the responsibility of the group leader to make sure the group stays a safe and encouraging place for that, and also that the group remains focused on God’s Truth. It’s how we know Christ, learn God’s plan, and remember God’s promises – all essential for life in Christ.

2. Prayer

Prayer invites God into the happenings of the group and helps them be confident that God is with them. Just like those who are inexperienced in the Scriptures, there may also be members of your group who are inexperienced with prayer. The group leader can make the group a safe place for members to learn about the power of prayer and become comfortable and gain confidence in approaching God through prayer, both personally and corporately. Prayer will help group members let go of their worries and anxieties, and praying for/with each other will be valuable in growing community.

*Tip: In a new group of people who don’t know each other or of new believers who may not be comfortable with prayer, the group leader can come with pre-written prayers and just ask various members to read them out loud. That will help them get used to the concept of praying out loud without being anxious about what to say.

 

3. Sharing

Sharing personal stories and experiences are what separate a small group from a Bible study. Sharing promotes community, which can be a slow thing to build. Being vulnerable with each other really helps grow the group in affection, understanding, and dependence on each other, and it also helps promote praying for each other and actively caring for each other. It’s important to let details emerge organically, though, rather than forcing people to share. Different personalities will have different willingness to share different levels. Be flexible with what you expect from your members.

*Tip: To help reluctant members figure out what to share, tell them think of these three faith stages: 1. What life was like before you came to faith, 2. The turning point in your life, 3. How faith has made a difference to you.

 

4. Contributing

Each member should contribute to the upkeep of the group. One person cannot do all of the necessary tasks to keep a group healthy and functioning. They will burn out fast, and the rest of the group will not be as engaged because they have no responsibilities. Lean into each member’s spiritual gifts, and help them grow in confidence in serving the Lord by what they contribute to their small group.

  • Hosting
  • Communication and organization
  • Refreshments
  • Facilitating discussion
  • Keeping prayer list
  • Co-leading
*Tip: Keep in mind the story of Mary & Martha (Luke 10:38-42). The “Marthas” are the ones who are most likely to volunteer to serve the group, but they are also most likely to get overwhelmed and burn out! Help the “Marthas” divide their responsibilities so that everyone contributes.

 

5. Serving

Serving allows the group’s mindset to expand outside the limits of the meetings. Serving together builds comradery and special bonds between group members, and it also gives group members an opportunity to live out the application of what they have learned in Scripture and their study materials. Be consistent with keeping up your service projects, and make sure to emphasize with your group the purposes of serving – developing compassion, obeying Christ, and growing spiritually.

*Tip: Have the group pray together about what service projects to participate in, and continually be emphasizing that service in the prayer time at your meetings. It will help keep your group members’ hearts and minds engaged in serving Christ through the project.

 

An intentional group leader who stays focused can really help make their group a powerful place for transformation of the members’ lives and of the community surrounding the group.

Watch a video of a webinar where all these elements are taught below:

The Cross Walk: A Brand New 7-Week Children’s Curriculum

We are thrilled to announce the release of The Cross Walk: Learning to Walk Like Jesus. The Cross Walk is an exciting new Children’s Curriculum that combines games, crafts, and hands-on activities with solid Biblical teaching. Perfect for Sunday School or mid-week gatherings, this brand-new resource is designed for Grades K-5, large group or small group sessions. What makes The Cross Walk unique is its parallel to the themes the adults are exploring in The Crucified Life study series, making for a powerful entire-family teaching experience. However, The Cross Walk offers powerful lessons on the foundations of faith for children any time of the year, regardless of whether their parents are participating in The Crucified Life.

The Cross Walk contains 7 weekly sessions based on Jesus’ Seven Words from the Cross:

Session 1: Forgiveness – “God forgives me. I need to forgive others.”

Session 2: Salvation – “When I do something wrong, I should run back to God.”

Session 3: Relationship – “I can help take care of the family of God”

Session 4: Distress – “Jesus helps me thirst to do the right thing.”

Session 5: Abandonment – “God will never leave me or abandon me.”

Session 6: Reunion – “I can trust God, even in difficult times.”

Session 7: Triumph – “God helps me finish the race!”

The Cross Walk Children’s Curriculum includes:

  • Weekly Large Group time of engaging Bible lessons taught through stories, skits, and videos (Grades K-5)
  • Weekly Small Group time for follow-up activities and crafts (divided by Grades K-1, Grades 2-3, and Grades 4-5) to help the lessons “stick” to little hearts
  • Lively, engaging games that tie in to the Bible teachings
  • Uplifting worship songs with on-screen graphics downloadable from the website, including two original songs written for The Cross Walk
  • Original animated videos of Bible stories, narrated by children
  • “Cross Walk, All Week” handouts featuring Dinner Table Talk to help families apply the lessons together

Don’t pass up the chance to get The Cross Walk at the low introductory price of $79.99 for the Digital-Only Package or $99.99 for the Print + Digital Package!

Download a free sample of The Cross Walk!

Purchase The Cross Walk now!

8 Goals to Set to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Small Group

Small groups can serve as catalysts for church growth, relational connectivity and powerful discipleship, but goals need to be preset to insure the health of your group.

Here are our Top 8 goals to make your small group more effective:

 

1. Establish the “Why”

Before doing anything else with your group, sit down and consider WHY your group will be in existence. Are you trying to attract new members to the church, trying to encourage community within the church members, or trying to deepen the faith and discipleship of current members? Or a mix of all three? Are you going to be essentially connected to the church in content and membership, or will you be an independently functioning body? Are we looking for discipleship or just social connections? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but it’s important for expectations to be clear. WHY you are meeting will help determine HOW you meet, and clearly establishing it will avoid frustration down the road.

2. Define Your “Win”

Do you want to grow personal connections? Establish ministry for the church? Do service projects in the community? These are all wins, but what is a win for YOUR group? When you have a “win,” CELEBRATE IT!

3. Define Your Boundaries

A group is defined not only by what it does, but by what it does not do. Make sure your group members understand what you do not do. Consider whether you will provide pastoral care/counseling, visit each other in the hospital, provide resources to members in need, and other things of this nature. Draw the line and make sure that everyone knows where it is. Also, clarify the confidentiality of the group. You need to make the group a safe place for your members to share their hearts and prayer requests, without fear of gossip or people hearing about things that they may not want to be shared publicly.

It might be a good idea to actually have members sign or verbally commit to a written group covenant. Click here to see a sample Small Group Agreement.

4. Define Leadership

Decide what kind of leader you will be and what help you need to recruit. Based on your strengths and the strengths of your members, who will facilitate discussion, organize hosting and refreshment schedules, maintain group communication throughout the week, record prayer requests and praises, etc.? Leaders who teach may need more training or special preparation.

5. Define Membership Expectations

How frequently will your group meet: weekly/bi-weekly/monthly? Will you meet for a specific length of time and then take a break? Will you break for the summer or a holiday season? Regarding attendance, if your group is more social, then the attendance policy could be more flexible to allow relationships to develop naturally. If you will be covering content or a specific program, the commitment to attendance needs to be higher. Also set an expectation about whether or not members need to notify someone when they’re going to miss so that the rest of the group isn’t wondering or worrying. If they miss, maybe they could email out their thoughts about the week’s homework. If anyone borrows the DVD or other material, how/when will they be expected to return it?

6. Decide on Materials

Who will decide on the material to study – the church or the group itself? Are any programs open to be considered, or will you as the leader give the group options to choose between? Who will pay for the materials?

7. Clarify Details

  • What kind of refreshments will be offered? Who will provide or coordinate it?
  • What about childcare?
  • Will you rotate hosts, stay at the same home for each meeting, or meet at the church?

8. Establish Your Leadership Style

Know that your leadership style is up to you, but keep in mind that good organization, people skills and problem solving abilities are needed to lead a great small group. If you don’t naturally have these qualities, recruit some helpers to keep you on track!

Give your group time to get established. Be patient and consistent in guiding your group according to the goals you have set, and you’ll soon see it headed toward the “win” you have decided to aim for!

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Watch a 50-minute webinar that presents this information below:

3 Reasons to Jump-Start Your Devotion Time for Pentecost

We hear it every day: “You make time for the things that are most important to you.” But a 2012 LifeWay study found that 81% of Christians don’t read the Bible daily. If you’re one of the 81%, you’re clearly not alone, but now is the perfect time to do something about it! Here are 3 great reasons to step into a daily devotion time and create a Spirit-Filled Life this Pentecost:

1. It’s the Birthday of the Church!

A quick look at Acts 2 will show you the origins of the Christian Church:

 “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.…

 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” … Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”
Acts 2:1-4, 37-39, 41

We celebrate the birth of Christ with great fanfare—why not celebrate the birth of the Church with a renewed spiritual commitment? Choosing to spend time with God not only honors Him and His Church, it improves your relationship with Him.

2. It’s the perfect way to get into a routine before the Summer Schedule Shift!

For most of us, Memorial Day signals the approach of summer vacation. After that, our day-to-day lives are upended until early September, and anything that you don’t already recognize as a “daily essential” will probably find itself sitting next to unused school supplies until back-to-school commercials roll around again. Your relationship with God is far more important than old backpacks and #2 pencils!

Use the next several weeks to begin a solid routine of daily time with the Lord—once you’ve established the habit, you’ll be less likely to allow that part of your life to slip away when the schedule goes haywire!

3. Why not now?

Any time is the ideal time to begin digging deeper into the Word and applying the life-giving principles you’ll find there! Start today—preview The Spirit-Filled Life now and see how carving out a few minutes to commune with the Lord can impact every area of your life.

7 Reasons to Have a Church-Wide Summer Study

No two families have the same summer schedule, which is why many churches stay away from scheduled studies during the season, especially church-wide studies. While churches are right when it comes to specific ministries–like small group ministry–I’d argue that summer is the perfect time to enact a congregation-wide study! Here are 7 reasons why:

 

  1. Maintain (or increase) momentum and involvement in your church. Where most churches wind down in the summer, your parish can use a summer study to dig deeper in the Word and grow in faith individually and corporately.
  2. Engage new families. Summer is a top time for families to move in and out of areas–they’ll be looking for ways to connect with their new communities, especially churches. This is the perfect opportunity to welcome newcomers to your church by updating your welcome bags/packs to include the same book the rest of the congregation is reading. What a way to greet new families!
  3. Increase social media connection. A church-wide study is a great way to engage parishioners on social media, especially during the summer. You can post shareable images that serve as a reminder to read the day’s devotion, encourage church members to post photos of them reading their devotions on vacation or stay-cation (and tag your church), or create a summer hashtag to aggregate what your church is saying about the devotional online.
  4. Promote congregational engagement–no matter someone’s location! Families are pulled in so many directions during the summer; they are never doing the same thing two weeks in a row. It’s a benefit to have a summer study that the whole church can read, whether they’re on vacation or at home.
  5. Get deeper in the Word than you might during the rest of the year. Everything slows down during the summer…why not a study? Take a 6-week series and double it–encourage your parish to spend additional time in the Word. By spending two weeks on each segment, as opposed to one ‘chapter’ per week, there are opportunities to unpack each Lesson in-depth.
  6. Provide opportunities for the congregation to stay in community. Most small groups will take the summer off–it makes sense that they would, but it can lead to families feeling a bit disconnected from the church. Use things like the series kick-off, close out, or even a mid-session ‘energy boost’ to encourage communion. Keep it fun (think barbecues, pool parties, etc.)!
  7. Give your church members something to talk about! It’s always easier to invite someone to church or an event when you can share what the visitor will experience. A summer study gives them a chance to share what’s going on in your congregation, whether it’s during the summer or when the “traditional” schedule begins again in the Fall.

Have you seen any benefits from a summer series not mentioned? Share them in the comments! I’d suggest using the Holy-Spirit-focused study The Spirit-Filled Life as a Summer series–get a free sample today!