When it comes to new year's resolutions, people are more willing to do something they know is right than to give up something they know is wrong.
I read on the Internet (so it must be true), that 84 percent of those surveyed resolved to start doing something positive while only 20 percent vowed to give up something. Also, according to an Internet survey, 63 percent of those questioned were still keeping their top resolution at the end of February. The rest of the resolutions were gone by January 1 at noon.
Here's the problem: People often have no idea how to make their resolutions reality. For instance, "I'm going to lose 20 pounds," but then I don't stick to a diet and exercise program. Or, "I'm going to grow closer to God," but I have no specific, long-term plan for making it happen.
That's the beauty of small groups. They are the place in the church to receive encouragement, conviction and accountability for keeping our commitments.
NOBODY GOES IT ALONE
We know that the best resolutions for church-going Christians are spiritual ones: read through the Bible during the year, have a quiet time every day, get rid of some sinful habit. But I believe most Christians in America still think they have to carry out their resolutions and the corresponding spiritual disciplines alone.
That's not the message of the Bible, however. The New Testament, especially, shows spiritual growth happening in the midst of community – encouraging one another, spurring one another on to love and good deeds, instructing one another, confessing sins to one another and praying for each other.
In an atmosphere of loving accountability in a small group, Christians can keep our resolutions through the year, as people trying to go it alone will fail by February.
But what about the unchurched? Do they make spiritual resolutions this time of year? They sure do, and they, too, need a place where they can gather support for keeping their resolutions. An open, seeking-the-lost, Great Commission Small Group – a growing and going group, a discipling, developing, deploying group will be a great place for people to begin a journey on their way to God.
NOBODY STANDS ALONE
One of our primary values at the church where I minister is that small groups are places where people can get connected with a group of friends, be cared for, and care for others. They are places where nobody stands alone. They are places where, when you make a commitment to grow in some area of your relationship with God, you can ask others' help, accountability and support. Your spiritual growth and mine become a team effort.
Try this at a small group meeting in January: Ask each member to share a list of new year's resolutions he or she is making this year. Push for them to make some spiritual growth resolutions, especially. Then discuss how you can help one another keep those resolutions as a group. Would accountability partners help? How about using a list of accountability questions? Where does encouragement fit in? How about prayer for each other? Confession? Teaching and admonishment?
As a small groups minister in a local church, I am resolving this year to do everything I can to help people find a group where they will grow in their relationship with God in authentic, life-giving community. That's a commitment worth making … and keeping!