One of God's purposes for a small group is that it be a place where care is mutually given. Our response to friends in need is a loud and clear statement to those in the group, the rest of the body of Christ, and to unbelievers who are watching us to see if our love "has feet and hands." Solomon wrote, "A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need" (Proverbs 17:17). For all of us, the question is not if crisis will come. The question is when it will come. On our darkest days, we need friends who gladly shoulder part of the burden as if they were "born to help in time of need." We also have the need to be that kind of friend to others.
God's intent is for the small group to be the primary care unit of the church. This works well for three reasons:
- In a healthy small group, friends will quickly become aware of needs that arise, making it possible to provide immediate and timely support.
- In a healthy small group, help can be provided by the very people who care the most about the person in need. Caring for someone you love is an almost instinctive response.
- In a healthy small group, everyone is a caregiver, so burnout due to care giving should be rare.If a church does not see small groups as its primary care unit, a few compassionate, but over-committed people, try to meet the needs of far too many. In that model, burnout is inevitable.
Over the last 20 years, I have seen small groups rally around hurting friends in every imaginable way. I have seen their continual presence in hospital rooms during a long-term illness. I have seen them provide meals, child care, and lawn maintenance when a family faced crisis. I have seen them provide comfort and incredible friendship to a grieving spouse. I have seen ...