Our small-group ministries are on the front lines of serving the body of Christ. No other ministry in the church consistently serves such a heterogeneous audience. Needy people and well-resourced people; new believers and veterans in the faith; people of all ages, backgrounds, and demographics are all part of our audience. How can one ministry serve such a widely disparate flock?
"With man this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God" (Mark 10:27). We take encouragement from knowing that all things are possible with God, but the first part of Jesus' response is just as important. With man alone, effective, life-changing ministry is impossible. We might see a few victories here and there, but truly God-honoring service won't happen by merely human effort.
All the efforts we put into our small-group ministries—planning, recruiting, communicating, discipling—will have little life-changing impact if carried out in our own strength, regardless of our level of talent or giftedness. These efforts are needed, but they're not enough. It's crucial that we support our ministries with prayer.
Pray for Your Ministry
"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans" (Proverbs 16:3). Begin by committing the ministry itself to God in prayer. We plan and provide direction, but much of what happens in the small-group ministry is beyond our control. Boundaries and resourcing for the ministry are often set by church leadership. The pool of available, willing, and capable small-group leaders fluctuates over time. The list of people interested in participating in small groups ebbs and flows.
One way to begin praying for your ministry is to seek God's leading in your own life. Here are a few suggestions for prayer:
- Follow Solomon's example and ask God for wisdom to lead the ministry effectively (1 Kings 3:5-15; see James 1:5)
- Ask God to grant you humility and a servant's heart (Philippians 2:3-4)
- Pray for a deep, abiding connectedness with Jesus, the Vine (John 15:1-8)
Praying for our ministry means recognizing that the ministry is in God's hands, not ours. This can be very freeing. As we realize that the ministry belongs to God, we're able to place the results—numerical growth, discipleship, etc.—in his hands.
The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) is a great place to start praying for your ministry. To pray this prayer most effectively, we need to ask ourselves a few questions:
- What would it look like for God's name to be honored in my ministry?
- If his kingdom were truly to come in and through my ministry, what difference would that make in the group members' lives, in the ministry as a whole, and in my church?
- What would God's will be for my groups, group leaders, and members?
- What sorts of temptation and evil might impact my ministry?
For more on using the Lord's Prayer to pray for your ministry, see Kneeling with Giants.
Pray for Your Small-Group Leaders
Small group leadership can be rewarding and encouraging, bearing obvious fruit in and through the lives of the small-group members. It can also be lonely and taxing. As point people, it's difficult for us to keep on top of every group, knowing exactly what each leader needs. But there is One who has the very hairs of their heads numbered, and He knows what our leaders need today, and what they will face in the near future. The most effective support we can give our leaders is to pray for them.
All of the things you've prayed for yourself (see above) can also be prayed for your leaders. Here are a few additional suggestions: