Building Disciples: Why Small Groups are essential
“You can form community without disciples, but you can’t form disciples without community.” ~ Chris Surratt, Small Groups for the Rest of Us.
Humanity, people, you…Every single person comes from community and is drawn to community. The Trinity, a community of 3 persons, one God, breathed us into existence. Biologically it takes a community of a man and a woman to create a child. Sociologically, community is essential in order for the person to develop and thrive.
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as a partner’” ~ Genesis 2:18 In ministry settings, small groups are vital for building community and community is vital for building disciples.
In college, I had a friend who was dating a non-Catholic Christian. She was Catholic and marrying a Catholic was important to her. She asked for my prayers for his conversion. A few weeks later, I asked her how it all was going and she let me know they had broken up. ‘I just don’t understand’ she said. ‘I have him Rome Sweet Home,’ a book about the powerful conversion of Scott & Kimberly Hahn to Catholicism. ‘He read the book, but he didn’t convert, so we had to break up’ she lamented.
Rare is it that a book alone will bring someone to know Jesus Christ, and if it is a book (or a program, or an event) it is because there is relationship behind that book. Maybe the person who gave the book to them, or a friend they are discussing the book with. Regardless, conversion does not happen absent relationship, relationship does not happen absent community.
To process content? To build disciples? Sure, both of these are true. The main goal of having small groups is to build community. It is to take the many and create a context where the few matter. Whether your ministry has 15 participants or 1,500, the best was to form community is the lead small.
There are so many different pieces that make small groups successful, and I will share about these different aspects in future posts, but here are a few overarching concepts that should be considered when forming small groups for your ministry.
- Consistency: Consistent members, consistent leader, consistent time & place, consistent expectations. Too much variation and the small group no longer becomes a safe place to grow and be vulnerable.
- Vision: Be clear at the very first meeting what the purpose of your small group is. Then at each meeting share the overall vision of small group and the vision for your gathering that day, even if the vision is simply to bond around a pizza and talk about college football.
- Prayer: Open and close the small group time in prayer. We’ve even done this when our small group plays paintball. Every gathering, every time, invite Christ into be the central member of your group.
- Limit the Commitment: Make the commitment to the group be a semester long commitment. This commitment can be renewed and often is. Once we started shortening the length of commitment to a particular small group ministry, we found that people would stick out a difficult group to the end of the shorter commitment. Along the way, the group will overcome the difficulty together and form a community in doing so.
- Leadership: If you are the ministry leader, then pour into your small group leaders with a fierce love. Leaders don’t always make a small group, but even the strongest small groups can be broken by a bad leader. Equip, empower and love on your leaders. It is better to hold off starting a small group or small group model until the leaders feel equipped and empowered to own and navigate their role.
The young church, particularly Acts of the Apostles, provides an inspiring model of the value of community and the fruits of small groups of people journeying together. As you look forward in your ministry, take time to look back and reflect on the early fruits of the church. There were no walls, there were no meeting places or coffee shops, no resources, there was only community. Small communities that met in homes, shared life together, broke bread and build disciples.
Be Blessed and see to create opportunities for your church, your community and you yourself to be in communities such as these.
Comment below how you seek to foster disciple-making communities.