Small Groups

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Caring for Each Another

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

A practical way of caring for one another is to participate in a small group of fellow church members where we regularly share any struggles we may be going through and pray for each other.

By asking questions like those following, we will be able to respond more specifically in our prayer and ministry for one another. You may have other questions that would be suitable.

  • What situations are causing you pressure or anxiety at the present moment? In your personal life? your family? or your ministry?
  • How would you describe your present relationship with the Lord?
  • How are you doing financially?
  • Are you having any problems in your relationships with other people?
  • Do you lack any clarity about your future that you would like us to pray with you about?
  • How is your thought life? Negativity---toward yourself? Criticism---toward others? Sexuality?

Confidentiality

Before considering the above questions the group should agree that any personal issues discussed should not be shared with anyone outside the group unless specific permission is given by the individuals concerned.

Helping One Another to Grow

The Scriptures teach that we should help one another in our spiritual growth, (1 Thessalonians 5:11-13; Col 3:16). One of the ways of doing this is to open our lives to one another and ask for help and prayer. The following is a list of some aspects of growth we all need to see in our lives. Read them through and follow the suggestions below.

  • Growth in faith demonstrated by active participation in meetings: in prayer, praise and spiritual gifts.
  • Growth in humility evidenced by willingness to open my life to others; also growth in ability to share other people's problems with compassion and faith.
  • A disciplined life---an example to others---e.g. punctuality, quiet times, overweight, thought-life, attitude to work, tidiness, courtesy, use of time, dress, faithfulness in assignments, etc.
    • Being positive in attitude and speech. Also, showing restraint and wisdom in speech.
  • Growing desire and ability to share my faith with non-Christians.
  • Willingness to act on counsel and to receive correction with humility.
  • Show initiative together with being a good follower.
  • Growth in confidence in ability to minister to others, becoming free from feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.
  • Freedom from resentment and anger, and able to quickly forgive those who have hurt me.
  • Growth in faith and responsibility with money: i.e. I normally have enough money for my needs. I am a cheerful giver to God's work and to God's people. Also i am quick to pay my bills.
  • Good relationships in marriage and with children, if married.
  • Maintaining good relationships with church, leaders, and my family.

Application

  • Tick the areas in which you think you are doing okay. Mark (X) the areas in which you think you need further growth or development.
  • Discuss why you marked yourself the way you did with a friend or a small group who knows you reasonably well. Ask them to pray that God would help you to grow where you need it.

Guidelines for Small Groups

Do's for Small Groups

  • Do have a clear understanding of the purpose for the group that is accepted by all members. Agree why the group is meeting and what you want to achieve in the lives of its members.
  • Do select group leaders who promote and encourage the participation and development of all group members, even the timid and uneducated. Provide ongoing training for this.
  • Do agree how the group will function; expected regular attendance; how many weeks it will meet; periods for prayer; methods of Bible study; refreshment, etc.
  • Do foster love and care in order to create an atmosphere of openness, trust and acceptance---it will take time, so be patient.
  • Do invite the Holy Spirit into the group and encourage the discovery and exercise of spiritual gifts in this ideal context.
  • Do encourage life-related Bible study and discussions and allow the truth of God's word to fashion the lifestyles of the members.
  • Do encourage prayer for people and circumstances outside the immediate concerns of the group.
  • Do look out for potential small group leaders for new groups. This is an ideal setting for training by example.
  • Do assess the groups regularly and be prepared to close, divide or restructure as necessary.

Don'ts for Small Groups

  • Don't be inflexible when allocating people to groups. Some prefer to meet with those they already know, others are happy to get together with anyone. However, it is important for specialist ministry groups to be integrated with other people, where possible.
  • Don't allow the programme to become more important than people.
  • Don't permit groups to become cliques and get introspective.
  • Don't allow leaders to dominate the group.
  • Don't insist on conformity of opinion on non-essentials of belief and behaviour.
  • Don't allow people to force their interpretation of doctrine on the group.
  • Don't allow the group to get too large and lose intimacy of relationships. Six to ten people is a good size; plan to divide if it goes over this.
  • Don't allow the group to substitute for a personal relationship with God.
  • Don't allow strong personalities to dominate the group, but encourage the quiet ones to share.

Application

  • Copy the above guidelines for each member of staff and ask for their feedback. Divide the meeting into small groups and get feedback from each group. Using this feedback, develop some guidelines suitable for your base.
  • Alternatively, discuss and evaluate the small groups in your church with the leaders responsible for pastoral care, using the 'Do's & Don'ts' listed above.

Leading Discussion in a Small Group

"Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom." Colossians 3:16

The above Scripture urges us to teach and admonish one another; discussion in our small groups gives us a good opportunity to do this. People learn much more from discussing questions and arriving at conclusions themselves than by being told all the answers. Therefore, a group leader should be careful to guide the discussion without dominating it.

If you are discussing teaching that has been given, begin by asking people what God spoke to them personally. You could do this by asking:

  • "What aspect of the teaching was especially highlighted to you?"
  • "Was there something new that you learned?"
  • "What do you think was the most important point in the teaching?"

If you are leading a Bible study make sure you give room for people to learn by discussion. Don't make it a preaching session. Briefly introduce the passage of Scripture, then ask one or two prepared questions that will provoke people to think about what the passage means. Launch the discussion by asking the most talkative people, then invite others to participate. Watch for those who would like to participate.

Guide the discussion by switching questions from one person to another, occasionally putting in your viewpoint and experience. Try to have everyone involved in the discussion.

Ask questions to provoke discussion:

  • ask questions like: what? who? why? when? how?
  • have some questions planned beforehand
  • avoid questions that require a 'Yes' or 'No' answer.

Be ready with general questions:

  • "What other ways are there of looking at this?"
  • "What do you think this means?"
  • "What other ideas does anyone have along this line?"
  • "How does this apply to your daily life?"

Try to develop unity of understanding by briefly summarising the group's conclusions as the discussion proceeds. Bring conclusion to the discussion before you move on to the next question.

Making application: encourage application at appropriate times during the discussion. e.g. "How are we going to apply this?" Have people share how they made application from previous discussions. If someone mentions a personal need during discussion, make sure you offer to pray for them.

If the person wants prayer, ask the whole group to join in. Suggest that each person in the group can:

  • lead out in prayer; or,
  • read out a verse of Scripture that they feel fits the person's need;
  • bring a prophecy or other Word from God for the person.