Leading a small-group ministry throughout the summer months can be especially challenging, particularly in the United States. The summer season is often viewed as one long holiday, lasting 10 to 12 weeks. Like any holiday, we try to fill it with lasting memories. Our kids are out of school, so it’s the perfect time to plan lengthy vacations. Many industries intentionally slow down a little to promote employee morale. We enjoy outdoor activities as much as possible, and when the heat becomes too intense, blockbuster movies offer an enjoyable reprieve inside the cinema. With so many options, small-group ministry frequently finds itself in competition for time, attention, and energy, resulting in it dropping off the list of priorities.
What if we tried something new that caused a sense of excitement about group ministry? What if we constructed a vision for small groups that inspired people and made them want to plan their activities around their ministry, instead of putting ministry aside until fall? It’s entirely possible to increase enthusiasm and participation dramatically by focusing on the missional aspect of your small group. Here are six steps to get your small groups involved in missions this summer.
Step One: Change Your Paradigm
The Apostle Paul refers to paradigms in this well-known verse: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). The Holy Spirit reveals, through Paul, the pathway to changing our lives and to knowing God’s will begins by altering our patterns of human thinking. As Christians, when we read “world” in Scripture, we have become conditioned to translate it as “sin” or “evil,” and that is certainly part of what Paul is saying. In a grander sense, however, this passage teaches us not to conform to the common mindset of our limited and flawed culture.
What are common mindsets we have that are flawed and limited regarding what we, as individuals, can do?
• “I could never do that.”
• “I don’t have enough. If I only had ______ then I could accomplish______.”
• “Great and amazing things happen to other people, but not me.”
Do these incomplete and broken ways of thinking ever creep into our minds as Christian leaders? You bet! The same limiting conversations may be imagined regarding ministry groups:
• “Our groups will never do that.”
• “We don’t have the money to do anything on that scale.”
• “Only big churches can do that. If only I had an assistant.”
When considering the larger implications of Romans 12:2, I become painfully aware of just how small and weak my current paradigms were. With this new awareness, here are some questions to ponder to help us all stretch and reframe our paradigms:
- What would you do to get your groups on mission if money were not an object?
- What do you dream of your groups doing through missions?
- What are you able to accomplish with the resources you currently have?
- How might not having enough resources force you to be creative?
- How might attempting the difficult, even impossible, grow your faith and your group members’ faith?
Reflecting on the above questions, what paradigms do you personally need to change as a small-group point person? How could the “renewing of your mind” influence the behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes of your group leaders? By conferring with another leader or team of leaders and writing down your thoughts, you will be stretched, and your conclusions will embolden you as God widens your thinking beyond human constraints.