There is power in close relationships to change us. Do you have close friends who can call you out? Are you comfortable enough to correct a friend, in love, when they steer from a godly life?
Time and space between friends grows smaller as they get into each others’ unseen corners, and these uncomfortable situations can serve as catalysts for the work God wants to do in our lives.
Over the last few months, our small group experience has taught us there is much fruit to be had through close connections – so long as you are willing to jump in.
If you ever thought of starting or joining a small group but have yet to take the leap, I hope to encourage you by pulling back the curtain and letting you in on our experience.
I am relatively new to small groups, so please, consider this my humble attempt as a fellow newbie to bring you along. The following are what my husband and I have found to be qualities of a fruitful small group:
Hospitality is biblical. It a spiritual practice (Acts 2:42-47) where you give of yourself, investing far more than just your earthly resources. Think about it: Come over to my humble home (does it meet your standards?), have a little snack I prepared (as I YouTubed “easy appetizers you cannot mess up!”), and let’s enjoy good conversation (if we have anything in common). However, the social risk has been well worth it. We are all more willing to open up to others who have opened up their homes (and their hearts) to us. This is how hospitality has lead to true connection in our group.
The Fellowship of the BelieversActs 2:42-47 (NIV)
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Genuine and Humble Use of Scripture
We can sometimes become prescriptive with our faith. Certainly there are times where specific scriptures are necessary but I am referring more to that feeling or need to “show ourselves approved”, if you know what I mean. In these times, our expectations for ourselves can lead us to over-plan and over-facilitate scripture into a meeting when the Holy Spirit just wants to have His way (it is, after all, His show not ours). God has taught us that if we have been spending time in the Word in private, it will come naturally in public. If we have not been spending time in the Word on our own, we might ask what our true motives are for bringing it up in public. In the end, we try to ground ourselves in the bible, and let the Word naturally fill our conversations.
I’ll keep it short: Why should you allow me into your life to pour into you, cry with you, or fight in prayer for you if I act like I don’t need your support as well? It’s important for us to let our humanity show a little. Using discernment, we try to regularly share our struggles, fears, dreams, insecurities, and quirks. This is not always easy and does not happen all at once, but in due time.
Diversity of Thought (Within Biblical Bounds)
As small group leaders, even in this short period of time, we have found that we all come together with different life experiences, opinions, and thoughts. It has been a significant part the bonding process to listen to each other and really consider opposing perspectives, so long as it is within biblical bounds. In those moments when topics conflict with the Word, it is our role as group leaders (servants) to re-prioritize the Bible as our guiding standard. We also pray for wisdom to help us navigate this in love.
Keeping Christ at the center means we encourage each other towards becoming more like Jesus. Some easy, practical ways we have promoted this includes praise reports from members who had solid responses to challenging situations throughout the week, or simply acknowledging when one member sees another exhibiting godly qualities. We don’t need to get all Brady Bunch on this (ahh memories…) Simply taking the initiative to make the first observation can begin a chain reaction.
I am sure there is so much more to learn about small groups, but these are the five qualities that to this point, have helped us enjoy a fruitful small group. They have driven our group from ten strangers to a web of mutually supportive Jesus lovers not afraid to get in each others’ lives.