By Robert Noland
Jesus intentionally formed the very first “small group,” as we call them today in the church. He called 12 disciples—a tiny band of diverse and, frankly, unimpressive followers.
Why? Because He wasn’t staging a coup or forming a cult. He was building a community. That was God’s plan.
When the church forms small groups today, we are following the pattern given to us by Jesus for building His community.
The uniqueness of the Christian small group is found when we gather in Jesus’ name. We must not gather for the sake of the church’s programming success or our own reputations. We don’t meet solely for social interaction or intellectual stimulation.
We gather for spiritual growth—vertical in our relationship with God and horizontal in our friendships with brothers and sisters in Christ. Small group success will be attained when this simple goal is met.
Here are three points to help set up and maintain a group being rooted in Christ:
In today’s individualistic culture, we must gently encourage people toward developing relationships with a purpose. Members must learn to trade their isolation for interaction, and their selfishness for serving one another.
Once members begin to meet and engage with one another, the next step toward building community is having an open exchange, where people can share their ideas and their struggles.
In decades past, the church was the one place you should not—and could not—express any spiritual doubt. Today, small groups inside the church should be a safe place to voice and process doubts and fears.
We all have them, and we must face them together if we’re to grow in our faith and experience God’s peace.
If a group can be honest about spiritual doubts and fears, the members are on their way to a great destination—depth. The shallowness of our society can be fought by sharing our struggles with one another.
Christ’s love allows us to live in honest and transparent community with other group members.
Paul told us faith without works is dead. What good is meeting regularly with a small group in Jesus’ name if the world never sees the results of the members’ growth?
Nothing will inspire and encourage us to pursue God’s will for our lives, as well as God’s plan for a lost world, more than the accountability and encouragement experienced in a healthy, mission-minded small group.
The true purpose of a small group is the changed lives of its members, impacting the world for Christ through their individual callings and collectively as members of the body of Christ.
ROBERT NOLAND has been in ministry for more than 30 years. He is a freelance writer living in Franklin, Tennessee.