Tuesday, February 12, 2013

One Important Tip for Your Small Group

Christianity is not a solitary faith. In fact, one could make an argument from the New Testament for calling it a “one-another” religion, i.e., we’re to live our lives in Christ by interacting with other believers in all kinds of ways: loving one another, forgiving one another, encouraging one another, teaching one another, bearing one another’s burdens, etc.

To be sure, this can play itself out in a thousand different ways. And at The Crossing, one significant way we seek to accomplish this is through small groups. Meeting regularly with a handful of people who want to grow in their faith by studying the Bible, praying, etc., can make a real impact in the lives of those participating, particularly over time. Along with fostering greater biblical maturity, a small group can be a primary place for the encouragement and care we all need.

For those of you participating in or planning on joining small groups, I do have one very important suggestion to help your group to become more of what I’ve just described. No, I’m nothing approaching a small group guru. In many ways I probably have much more to learn that I have to teach. But I have participated in and led small groups for years now, and I’ve only grown in my conviction about the importance of allowing time for people to develop and enjoy friendships.  

To put it another way, getting together as a small group should include plenty of informal time for people to catch up, laugh, share, confide in, etc. Simply hanging out with one another has a world of benefits. A few further thoughts related to this:
1. Friendship is an excellent foundation from which to minister to one another. When you come to know people well, you’ll increasingly experience both their strengths and weaknesses. Consequently, you’ll be able to see both how your own gifts, perspective, etc., might help someone else and vice versa. Shepherding others involves applying biblical wisdom in a specific context, i.e., a person’s unique life. Growing in friendship is a great way to get a better understanding of the latter.

2. But solid friendships obviously don’t happen overnight. They usually take plenty of time and shared experiences that foster appreciation, trust, etc.

3. In a culture that seems only to get more hectic, it’s a challenge to spend unhurried time with people, even with your friends. In my case, sometimes even a five-minute conversation in The Crossing foyer is challenging when both parties have young kids in tow (i.e., herding cats). Carving out that kind of time in your group can be a much needed antidote to the busyness of life. 

4. Eating together is a fantastic way for people simply to talk and enjoy time together. Its instructive to see how prominent the hospitality of a meal is in the Bible. There’s just something sharing a meal that fosters deeper relationships.

5. People who’ve developed friendships do have a greater desire to get together. In the aforementioned busy society in which we live, that helps people to make their small group a priority, even among other good activities and pursuits.

6. With all that said, it’s important to remember that friendships aren’t merely instrumental in helping us to minister to one another. They’re also simply to be enjoyed.

7. In order to allow this kind of organic growth of friendships and community, my own small groups usually spend half our time together eating and talking informally, with the other half devoted to our study and praying/sharing as a group (we meet for two hours total). I offer that as a practical example; it’s certainly not some kind of hard and fast ratio that all groups must follow.

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