How Can We Minister without Meddling?

When group members are seriously hurting, where is the line between supporting and intruding?

A couple in our group is having serious marital problems. A divorce is very possible. How can we help without "intruding" or going beyond the amount of "ministry" group members should perform?

This question gets to the heart of what a small group should and should not be.

First, let's discuss what a small group is. It is a place where group members are supported, loved, held accountable, and encouraged. The longer the group has been together, the more likely these things will be taking place on a regular basis. The participants in a small fellowship or nurture group (as opposed to a content-oriented Bible-study group) share life together as a family. As they grow together, they are more able to trust one another, which builds their ability to support and pray for each other, to hold each other accountable, and even confess their sins to one another (James 5:16).

In the past, people were cared for or "pastored" by a designated person such as a staff minister or elder. But real care for people happens best in the small group where people know one another and are naturally concerned for each other. Relationships are built in groups before a crisis happens. Then, when a death in a family, bankruptcy, or marital problems occur, people are already prepared to care for the ones who are hurting.

So far, I've mentioned only the internal functions of the group. Members of a healthy small group also encourage each other to serve people outside the group, share their faith, and live Christlike lives in the world.

Now let's see what a small fellowship group is not. It isn't a recovery group. A fellowship group does not focus on recovering from some addiction or emotional difficulty. Leaders do not allow meeting after meeting to dwell on one ...

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