One of the main purposes of small groups is to develop mature people who follow Christ more obediently. But in churches, and especially in small groups, different people may view spiritual maturity in different ways. Some may think of it as having lots of Bible knowledge, for example, or having a great quiet time everyday, or being perfect.
At Community Christian Church, we believe that spiritual maturity is really about speedy obedience. No one says it better than our lead pastor, Dave Ferguson, in The Big Idea: "For a Christ follower, the measure of maturity is determined by the speed of obedience. The most mature Christ follower is not the person who has attended the most church events or accumulated the most information about Jesus, but rather the person whose heart is most transformed. And transformation is seen when a person hears God and responds with swift obedience."
In addition to setting a specific goal for spiritual maturity, small groups also have the incredible privilege and responsibility to set the pace for spiritual growth in the church. But that highlights another misconception that often develops in groups. We think that it's our responsibility as group leaders to take our members from being atheists to missionaries in one year or less. In reality, that's not the case at all. Maturity is about speedy obedience, and the pace for spiritual growth is about moving ahead one obedient baby step at a time.
That's why small-group leaders need to learn the skill of helping their people identify "next steps." Below, I've identified a practical, three-step game plan that will help encourage your group members to move forward in spiritual maturity. I recommend writing this plan down ...