First, the ideal small group is relational. It’s where people connect.
Second, the ideal small group is spiritual. It’s where people grow. Hebrews 10.23
“Holding tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm” means that we are allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us through the Word of God. There are all kinds of groups that people can be part of. Gardening groups, book clubs, political groups, etc. but small groups are the only place where you can go where the primary purpose is to foster your spiritual growth and development. A small group is not just a random discussion group where we talk about sports, or politics, or the weather. It’s where we open God’s Word and allow it to penetrate our hearts and draw us into a deeper relationship with him.
Being in a small group should never be about just attending a small group. Instead it should be about growing through the interaction with that small group. Group members should show up at their small group ready to participate in the discussion and be open to what God might be teaching them at that moment.
Small groups provide that atmosphere where God’s Word can be applied personally and practically – something that’s almost impossible to do in the large group context of Sunday morning worship services. Sure, the pastor can provide some possible points of application but it’s a little like the ring toss game at the Fair – you hope one of them lands successfully. Without the basis of connection that small groups provide the points of application in a sermon are more guesswork than prescriptive. Allowing people to get to know you enables the group to respond to your spiritual needs and help you grow.
In an ideal small group we really don’t care how big the group is or how fast it is growing. What is most important is that those who attend the group are growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ and their knowledge of and obedience to the Word of God. But this growth is not automatic – it’s only a possibility. You might have group members that will resist attempts by the group to help them grow. They do this by withholding information, spinning the information they do share, or by withdrawing from the group – all very real possibilities in every small group.
What have you found to be helpful in getting group members to actively enter into both connecting and growing? Have you had group members withhold, spin, or leave? Tell me about it.
There’s one more component to the ideal small group. I’ll tell you what it is next time!