When I think of a great small-group meeting, I think of authentic conversations, new insights, several good laughs, and feeling known and loved. Something that doesn't normally come to mind? Inspiring hope. But that's changed.
Recently at my women's small group, I was filled with hope, and that was exciting—especially because I haven't always been a fan of women's ministry. Our discussion filled me with a renewed sense of mission, identity, and worth. Surprisingly, this great small-group meeting happened despite being in a group with less-than-perfect group dynamics, no clear leader, and a book study that's not exactly the best I've seen—red flags that would normally catch my attention. But our discussion stemmed from a great question, authentic sharing, and wisdom gained over years of following Christ. Our answers steered clear of the trivial and cliché and instead pointed to hard-learned truths.
So is inspiring hope something that we should strive for in small groups? Or should we be content with nice discussions?
The Bible certainly seems to say a lot about hope. Romans 12:9-13 says to be joyful in hope. Romans 15:4 points out that Scripture was written to fill us with hope, and 15:13 clarifies that it should be an overflowing hope, full of joy and peace. 2 Corinthians 3:12 reminds us that hope makes us bold to live out lives of faith. And 1 Thessalonians 1:3 says hope can give us endurance as well.
It certainly appears as if hope might be something Jesus wants for his followers. And if hope makes us bold and gives us endurance to keep on keeping on, it seems that hope is an important ingredient for spiritual formation. After all, if there's no hope of change or redemption, what's the point? Hope sounds perfect for small groups.
So do your group meetings inspire members with hope? Do your group members leave meetings feeling as though they've been on holy ground, that God was truly present in the meeting? Do they leave with a greater sense of identity and mission? Do they leave feeling emboldened to live a life worthy of their calling?
How do we make sure our meetings are brimming with hope? I imagine that depending on your study, some nights are more easily inspiring. For instance, talking about Jesus' miracles and discussing the miracles group members have seen in their own lives probably feels more inspiring than discussing the laws of Exodus. On the other hand, if we're reminding group members of Christ's power, the working of the Holy Spirit, and the deep love of God, can't any topic bring hope and inspiration?
As we head into the Christmas season, consider how your small-group meetings are inspiring hope in your group members. As we consider the hope of the world arriving as a baby, may your group bathe in the light of hope, gaining joy and strength to live lives for Christ's glory.