I’ll admit my bias, I’m a fan of group life.
In my observation, the best and most enduring stories of life change are connected to some form of small group experience.
Christianity was never designed to be a journey taken alone. In fact, I don’t believe you can live your faith journey to its fullest potential by yourself.
You can know Jesus as Savior, but you will not likely experience the fullness of growth and maturity that you are designed for, if you do it on your own.
It’s not a legalistic proposition. There have been seasons where I’ve not been in a small group. But I can tell you that I always live better in the context of connection with others on a similar faith journey – in pursuit of greater understanding and intimacy with God.
From decades of leading men’s small groups, to leading and participating in couple’s small groups, and currently participating on a church board that pursues spiritual connection and life transparency to such a degree it is a form of group life!
Your church likely offers small groups too.
But no matter how much encouragement you give, it’s not easy to inspire all of your congregation to get involved in a group.
Before we get into the three great values of small groups, here’s a quick look at three of the most common false beliefs that keep your people out of groups with a practical approach to increasing participation.
3 false beliefs that prevent people from joining small groups:
1) The belief that there is not enough value.
One person said to me: “It’s not worth the trade.” I asked what he meant, and he said, “My previous group experience was not spiritually productive. We had great fun together, but I can’t afford a night a week just to hang out and have good coffee.”
Personally, I do want a fun group, but I understand his response. He wants to grow spiritually.
A practical solution is higher quality and better trained leaders. The best leaders are those who can create an environment conducive to spiritual growth, and also make it fun!
2) The belief that there is not enough respect or understanding.
This belief of perhaps being embarrassed or even made to feel “less than” is usually from those who have never tried a group. But it’s nonetheless real and keeps people from attending.
A practical solution is to clearly communicate expectations and group norms.
Let your congregation know straight up that everyone is loved and accepted and has something to offer from their own life story. No one is put on the spot and everyone is encouraged to go at their own pace.
3) The belief that there is not enough time.
It is true that the majority of your congregation lives a very busy life. They work hard, take time for family life, and want to rest a little at the end of the day.
But there is enough time when you are motivated by something you want.
A practical solution is to communicate the potential for a better and more fulfilling life through real stories of life change. Don’t limit your challenge to mere mechanics such as “Everyone get in a group.” Cast vision for why it’s so important.
3 Great Values of Small Group Life:
(These will help you communicate the value of groups in your church.)
1) Sustained life change happens best in a small group.
God can and does move in large group experiences. The obvious example is your Sunday morning worship experience. The Holy Spirit is present and active, worship stirs the soul, and the truth of Scripture inspires life change. It can happen in a moment.
However, we also know that continued and sustained life change (growth) doesn’t happen by the large group experience alone. An environment is needed to make it practical.
2) Life makes more sense in context.
As a pastor for more than thirty years I can tell you that life is more complicated now than ever before. Life is wonderful, but it’s complicated. Culture is changing rapidly, people have more questions, and sometimes life just doesn’t make sense.
This sometimes leads to constructing a “theology” of life that fits their circumstances rather than fits the reality of God and biblical truth.
Small group doesn’t necessarily answer all of life’s questions, but hearing other’s experience helps life make sense, and together you live life better.
3) Groups provide opportunity for spiritual leadership.
When you are part of a small group you receive great value, but you always receive more when you lead the group.
You may give more in terms of preparation, prayer and serving those in your group, but when you lead the group, your personal growth is exponential. It’s based on the simple principle that you get out of it what you put into it.
Small group ministry provides the incredible opportunity for individuals to step up and lead. There is nothing quite like it. Seeing life change on the front lines is a gift that you just can’t put a price tag on.