Years ago, I can remember hearing Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California in an interview. He said something quite profound about his role as a pastor: “I realized that healthy sheep reproduce. Sick sheep don’t. I made it my goal, then, to produce healthy sheep in my church.”
Very often, participation in small groups is part of making a healthy church through producing spiritually healthy church members. It goes back to the small house churches, such as the church which met in the house of Philemon, that were the churches of the New Testament. My seminary classmate Joel Comiskey has made this small groups the core of his worldwide ministry – but unfortunately, many churches in the USA seem to be neglecting this possibility. It’s a path to edification of each other in the body of Christ.
Here’s a very basic outline to start.
This is the opportunity that the small group provides:
- The opportunity to work with others and grow together with them.
- The opportunity to grow deeper in fellowship with other believers.
- The opportunity to learn the Bible with others and to learn how to apply it.
- The opportunity to learn skills in ministry to others.
This is what the small group requires:
- Faithful attendance.
- Active participation.
- Understanding and patience with others who are different and who have strengths, needs and desires which are different.
- Study and preparation of any Bible study lessons or ministry assignments.
- Keeping what others share confidential, within the group.
Here’s what to provide people with the invitation:
- Time and place of meeting.
- Time to consider attendance.
Here’s an extremely basic guide on how to prepare and lead:
- Learn the historical and background and theological meaning and significance of the passage to be discussed at the group meeting. Avoid, though, letting the meeting become concentrated on an academic understanding of the passage.
- Ask questions to get the people in the study to dig into the passage. Write out questions beforehand; the Serendipity Bible is an absolutely excellent resource for searching questions. This keeps the meeting from becoming a lecture by the leader. Moreover, it helps to get the people into the habit of searching the scriptures for themselves. Too many believers are stunted in their growth, and have remained stuck in immaturity for years and sometimes decades because others have spoon fed them all the scripture they get.
- Ask anyone who throws out pat answers to look at the scripture again. Often someone may throw out something that may be either a platitude or something that scripture says elsewhere, but in this case the leader needs to direct that person back to the passage under discussion.
- During a time of prayer, seek to follow corporate prayer etiquette and the circle of faith among the members.
- If there is a need that someone shares, care first!