My first experience in small-group ministry is now over—sooner than I expected. But I still believe in the concept. Even though I made so many mistakes, I intend to go out and try again. In fact, I'm already involved in a second small group, and I've taken steps to safeguard against the problems I'm about to describe.
The first group started after my Sunday school class complained that 45 minutes wasn't enough time to do the text justice. I suggested we meet on some weeknight in addition to Sunday morning.
One couple volunteered their home, and before long, their living room was filled with young adults we never could have coaxed out of bed for Sunday school. More important, the teaching enjoyed an efficiency over tortilla chips and cola that somehow had hit snags coming over a pulpit or lectern. The church had given me a license to preach, but the small group gave me license to minister.
We made some serious blunders, however. What were they? Here are several.
Prone to Clone
Having never been a guru before, I had no idea how easy it is to abuse your position of prominence and clone others in your image.
Our group granted me the positions of Discussion Leader, Teacher, Information Clearinghouse, and Interpreter of Holy Writ—and I too readily accepted.
At first I praised the Lord for a group so responsive to my discipling, but I started hearing things that scared me. People began quoting me the way I quoted C. S. Lewis and C. H. Spurgeon. I heard not only my words, illustrations, anecdotes, mottoes, and doctrinal positions being repeated, but also my attitudes and prejudices. It wasn't so bad that they adopted my soteriology and even my eschatology, but they were assuming my personality! ...