by Reid Smith
Balance has always been elusive for me in ministry. Earlier on, I grew skeptical of it because I pictured it as being something that literally meant I was giving equal time and attention to multiple things but somehow not cheating anything. Life rarely allows this luxury. So when I heard balance applied to small groups, my instinctive reaction was “Nope – that’s just setting leaders up to fail.”
If we’re honest, we’re probably not doing all of the things we’ve learned that we should be doing in our groups. People connect and grow together regularly through some form of fellowship, Bible study and prayer in most groups. Far fewer develop a plan for building in other spiritual practices, different expressions of worship, and outreach to make a group experience well-rounded, or dare I say, “Balanced!”
Over time, however, “balance” for me became less about maintaining perfect equilibrium, and more about planning ahead on how you can incorporate activities that are commonly omitted from group life, but vital to the health of it. You need to have a plan to have balance.
The group leader is the person responsible for driving the process of developing a plan with the group about how they will be intentional about including spiritual practices that do not normally occur in their gatherings. I’ll share a few pointers on how group leaders can lay the groundwork for balance by planning ahead for it followed by practical ways members can pursue balanced group life together.
Laying the Groundwork for Balance
- Pray – The most powerful thing you can do to facilitate the work of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives is to pray specifically for your group members to exercise faith and take steps to grow ever closer to Jesus!
- Have a Sidekick – You need a close companion who sees the vision of balanced group life and understands the “why” behind it before you share it with the group. This is important because you need feedback and somebody who is in the room with you affirming the dream as you share it with everyone.
- Maximize your Kick-off – Be highly-relational, but very strategic during your first session of a new study or season as a group. Get to know each other better, but be sure to discover how each person would like to grow as a result of being part of your group. Help them unearth their spiritual growth goals before diving into curriculum.
- Have a “Locker Room Talk” – Before an important game, a coach will get the players fired up by telling them why he sees them being victorious and what they need to do to get there. Is a group’s life together any less important? Of course not!
- Start by explaining how a well-rounded group will support each member’s personal transformation and help everyone grow stronger spiritually. Then share how the Lord has a purpose in each one playing a part in fulfilling it because of how He has gifted them (more on that in a moment).
- This builds buy-in to the vision, increased participation in living it out together, and consequently, the group will have healthy longevity and greater impact.
Balancing Group Life Together
- Serving Together – Engage in a service project or group outreach at least once per season / semester. Present this idea at the outset of your group and schedule it in advance. You might choose to do this in place of your group meeting for a week.
- Worship Together – Click HERE to access ideas for “Unleashing Creative Group Worship.”
- Remembering Together – Celebrate communion once per season / semester – Talk with your church’s leadership to learn about how you can do this in your group.
- Confession – Some spiritual breakthroughs necessitate confession, which opens the way for God’s light to shine on the dark places sin wants to remain hidden. As a group deepens its bonds with one another, subgroup by gender to minister to one another. Refer to Ed Stetzer’s article on “Accountability Questions” for examples that you can select and use in your own group.
- Spiritual Gifts – If you believe that every Christ-follower has been graced with spiritual gifts to build up one another as the Church then don’t you think He has a purpose in them for your group (1 Cor 12:7)? Group members provide the necessary feedback and encouragement for one another to identify their God-given spiritual gifts and begin to use them in faith and boldness. Step-by-step guidance for group leaders on how to have conversations to help members find and use their spiritual gifts can be found HERE.
This last point is a master key to balanced discipleship in your group. Maybe the Lord has a unique purpose for every group that is unique to it based on the supernatural composition of spiritual gifts represented in its group members. Maybe every group has its own divine palette of colors that can be mixed together to produce a one-of-a-kind work of art to the glory of God.
If this is so, it stands to reason that a group will experience “balance” as each member of it works in concert with one another to make his or her own special contribution to God’s mission in the world. Group leaders can catch a vision for unlocking balanced disciple-making when they tap into the spiritual growth goals and gifts the Lord has planted in their group members.