We are in a spiritual war. But how often do we frame our idea of small groups within that context?
Think of groups as small tactical squads. Groups are more than just fellowship-builders. They are more than just support systems. They are units in God's grand army. They are small groups of soldiers that play a strategic part in God's battle plans against evil.
As in any war, soldiers must be given the rules of engagement. Rules of Engagement (ROE) "are rules or directives to military forces that define the circumstances, conditions, degree, and manner in which force, or actions which might be construed as provocative, may be applied." In other words, ROE tell soldiers how to operate together and how to handle issues that arise.
Just like soldiers in war, small groups must be issues ROE in order to successfully navigate the battlefield. There are a myriad of rules that your church might address:
- How long groups should meet
- When groups should dissolve
- When groups should birth other groups
- How to handle conflict in a group
- How group leaders should navigate relational tension
The list could go on and on, and the full list of ROE can become pretty complicated. To simplify things, soldiers sometimes are given a shortened description called an ROE card that provides all the necessary information in an easy-to-read format.
What if your church created ROE cards to give to groups? How might they equip your groups regarding issues on their spiritual and relational battlefields before they arise?
At our church, we provide groups with a small booklet that fits in your back pocket to summarize our ROE. Rather than address every possible scenario, we focus on one thing: connection. If group members connect in healthy ways, the likelihood of division, tension, anger, and misunderstandings goes down tremendously. We boil down connection into what we call "The Four Levels of Connection" based on a talk I heard from Rick Warren.
Level One: Play Together
So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.—Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NLT)
Enjoying one another is critical for small-group members to connect. It's important to have fun together. Our church recommends that groups intentionally plan times for fun. We suggest things like:
- Going to the movies together
- Going out to eat a meal together
- Going to a sporting event together
- Going on a vacation together
- Tailgating before a game
- Having a night out for just the women or men
The point is to find activities that group members can enjoy together because fun activities break down relational barriers. When people are having fun, they let go of their inhibitions and allow their true selves to shine through.
Sometimes people have the wrong notion that small groups must always be serious. But when we set out to have a serious group, everything goes wrong. People are intimidated, and they don't open up. And when no one opens up, it's hard to have a serious group discussion. When we take time to have fun together, though, people begin to open up because they're less intimidated. Sure, we probably won't have a deep conversation at a tailgate, but the point is to break the ice. Then when things get more serious, it's easier to open up on a deeper level.