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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Communication and organization
- Facilitating discussion
- Keeping prayer list
|*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.
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: