First, the ideal small group is relational. It’s where people connect. (See part 4)
Second, the ideal small group is spiritual. It’s where people grow. (See part 5)
Third, the ideal small group is missional. It’s where people serve.
We know that serving others became the normative standard of the Christian community because the writer of Hebrews called upon the believers in 10.24 to think of new ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Not so that people would earn their salvation but because they were recipients of God’s grace-filled salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Their commitment to Jesus Christ compelled them to serve others – to have a purpose or a mission outside of themselves.
At our church we are calling upon all of our small groups to make this one of the three foundational components of their groups. The missional component of serving together strengthens and enriches both the relational and spiritual components. When people serve together a deeper and stronger bond is formed between them and the people they serve are impacted with gospel in action. So we are asking every small group to determine together to an act of service.
For the purposes of the small groups we are primarily defining service as something outside of the church. A group could choose to paint a room in the building or rake up leaves outside. While that would be nice we would challenge the groups to serve in some way that impacts people outside of the church. Some examples could be:
To serve a coffee break at a Habitat for Humanity building site. A group could volunteer to help sort donated items at the community food bank or collect food in your neighborhood for the community food bank. Groups could help serve and/or clean up at our Wednesday evening family dinner. A group could donate blood together or organize a blood drive at the church. Another group could volunteer to clean up the landscaping around the community center or at a local school.
Connecting, growing and serving together are the key elements in an ideal small group but what about that ultimate small group? The ultimate small group was Jesus & his disciples. Here you had
a group of 13 men that did more than just meet weekly for a 90 minute study and time of prayer. It was a band of brothers that took the building of relationships to another level often being together 24/7 for weeks and even months at a time.
In their midst was Jesus who took every opportunity to teach them formally and informally, opening the Scriptures before them to challenge their thinking and behavior with statements like, “You have heard it said from long ago, but now I say to you…”, and using situations in real life as object lessons for living as redeemed citizens in the kingdom of God. Under the leadership of Jesus they fed the masses and healed the sick.
And after his ascension these same men continued this ministry of serving through the power of the Holy Spirit. They weren’t content to just hold classes about Jesus, or erect buildings in which to hold services, or collect funds in order to send others out with the incredible message of the Gospel. They went into the community themselves caring for others and demonstrating the reality of their faith in Jesus through meaningful acts of service to others.
It was because of Jesus death on a cross and his resurrection from the grave that these disciples and those believers that followed were compelled to meet together in order to connect relationally, to grow spiritually, and to serve missionally. Today, each one of our small groups can share a similar experience as they gather in the name of Jesus and include these three elements of the ideal small group.
(For additional resources you might take a look at Lifeway’s Group Life project that uses connect, grow, serve, and go to create a comprehensive small group experience with supporting curriculum and resources. While I am unfamiliar with Group Life, I found this introduction to the material to be quite interesting: Group Life pdf download.)