A common tension with a lot of small group point people is defining what an “official” small group is at their church. A broader definition will add to the number of groups and look good on the scorecard, but are they effectively creating disciples? It’s vital that church leadership teams come to an agreement on what the defining expectations are for a small group.
After you have set your expectations for what an official small group is in your church, you have to make it clear what you expect to take place within those groups.
When my wife and I started our first small group, there was an expectation at our church for groups to have an element of singing together for worship. I was a musician and a worship leader at that time, so each week I would pick out two or three songs and lead them with an acoustic guitar. I would also print out the lyrics so everyone could have something to stare at instead of the person across from them in the circle. If you think men aren’t singing during your Sunday morning worship, try forcing them to sing in a small group of twelve people.
I had visions as a worship leader of experiencing deeply moving worship times during which we could feel the power and presence of God in the room. What I got in reality were a few brave souls willing to help me out and a bunch of guys silently praying for it all to be over so they could hit the desserts in the kitchen.
Outside of a worship team small group, I have never experienced singing together as an effective element in a small-group meeting. Worship can also be expressed in a group through prayer, reading God’s Word, and moments of solitude together.
So what are the core elements that should be taking place at a small group? Here are a few that I look for in groups:
- Food: Not every group has to serve food as part of their meetings, but food can help to knock down barriers to conversation. I encourage groups to start with a meal at an affordable restaurant to encourage open conversation from the beginning.
- Laughter: When I visit a small group, I can sense how healthy a group is by how much laughter is in the room. Spiritual formation is not meant to be a somber, boring exercise. (That is saved for seminary!) The tone of fun starts with the leader.
- Study: A small group without the element of study is a social club. Curriculum does not equal discipleship, but it helps generate the necessary conversations to get there. If you are looking for a great option for customizable curriculum, check out smallgroup.com.
- Dialogue: Spiritual transformation happens through the questioning of our beliefs and unbeliefs as long as the truth of God’s Word is always the landing place for the discussion.
- Prayer: I always regret when I let the discussion bleed into our time for prayer for one another. It’s so easy to breeze through a quick prayer at the end to wrap things up on time. Taking time to hear one another’s needs is an essential part of group life.
If singing together is your thing, then by all means incorporate it in your program. Otherwise, find the core elements that every group meeting should have and train your leaders to implement them successfully in their groups.
This article was adapted from Small Groups for the Rest of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes. © Thomas Nelson, 2015. Used with permission.
Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over 22 years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC, for 15 years. He also manages SmallGroup.com for Lifeway Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson. You can follow his blog at chrissurratt.com or follow him on Twitter @chrissurratt.