The next five posts will be about the five purposes and tasks in small groups. There are many things that cannot be done on Sunday morning. Some cannot be done because of time constraints. Some cannot be done because of the large group context. But when large group and small group gatherings work in concert with one another, great things can happen to the local church. It’s amazing what can happen to the local church when the local church is working right.
So to give you a summary, the five purposes are as follows:
Purpose: Community- meaningful and worthwhile relationships
- Action: Fellowship/Community
Purpose: Growth- Growing in Knowledge of Gospel and Bible
- Action: Study and Spiritual Discussion
Purpose: Exercise faith
- Action: Prayer
Purpose: Reaching out Missionary Support
- Action: Figure it out with the Missionary
Purpose: Serve Others
- Action: Organized service
Let’s talk for five paragraphs about the purpose of community. The old word of “Fellowship” was really a better word. It encapsulated both the idea of strong friendship as well as that of a purposeful journey. The “Fellowship of the Ring” in the Tolkien novel the Lord of the Rings was a group of people bound together in friendship and love but also in one overriding purpose. But, right now “community” is the hot word. Either way, the practice of community and fellowship should include at least the following five practices:
Knowing and Being Known: Loving relationships require mutual knowledge. There are some ways you can love each other based on universal humanity, but to really love a person you have to know them as that person. Therefore, to strengthen community and build fellowship you have to engage in practices that increase mutual knowledge on multiple levels. This is why skipping icebreakers is usually a bad idea. Icebreakers really help you get to know people. It’s also why eating together can be an important part of small group. The conversations that happen over food are important conversations in getting to know people.
Loving and Being Loved: You have to actually act like you care about each other. Build a positive atmosphere where negative forms of humor are very rare, and where open encouragement is commonplace. The key here is how people talk to each other and how people treat each other. The small group leader will have to model this and call fouls when a bad example is being set.
Serving and Being Served: People in small group community should both have the obligation and opportunity to serve others (inside the group and outside the group), and to be served by others within the group. There are lots of ways this can be done. Picking up one another’s children, helping with a major family project at someone’s house, babysitting for a couple with atroubled marriage that needs some date time, and so on. People in the group should be taught to look for opportunities to serve others in the group. At High Point one of the service opportunities we have is to serve missionary families working for the gospel in remote locations.
Admonishing and Being Admonished: Sometimes love necessitates confrontation. I’m not talking about drama. I’m talking about loving confrontation that is done for the true good of the person being confronted. I’m talking about loving, humble confrontation motivated by a love of the Gospel and a love for others. This should be done after prayer and reflection. It should be done as privately as possible. And it should be done as humbly as possible, without a dogmatic spirit. But when it is the true need of another, love dictates admonishing others graciously toward the truth, and the repentance truth may require. Remember, Jesus, the Gospel and the glory of God are the issue – we are pointing them back to Jesus and the gospel.
Celebrating and Being Celebrated: Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate good things in the lives of others. We also could put in here: mourning in being mourned. That would be just as true, but in the practice of leading small groups, we should be most on the lookout for little things we can celebrate in the lives of others. A graduation, a child getting out of rehab, moving to a new house, a military or work promotion, or any number of things can be an opportunity to show others we know what is happening in their lives, we know it is important to them, and that we care. Even tiny celebrations of seemingly little things can mean an enormous amounts to other people.Thoughtfulness and compassion go a long way in helping us grow spiritually and showing God’s love for others.
Know, love, serve, admonish, celebrate. Practice these consistently and you will see the development of an increasingly healthy and meaningful sense of Christian community, or even better, Fellowship.
See the Five Purposes Small Group overview video here.