Note: This article has been excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training tool called Do You Lead a Life-Changing Small Group?
As small-group leaders, we definitely want to see bonds form between the people in our groups. In fact, we can feel like a proud parent when we see people talking and laughing and enjoying life together. The social aspect of a small group is both good and necessary, but there are still times when it feels like a necessary evil—especially when it comes to evaluation.
We need to be sure solid relationships are in place so that people can open up and share the real messiness in their lives. But usually the only opportunity we have to gauge relationships involves surface-level interactions. So how can we measure if those deeper connections are being made before they become necessary?
To help you evaluate your group's progress in forming rock-solid spiritual friendships, consider these biblical models of friendship and reflect on the questions that follow.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
David and Jonathan are perhaps the most famous "best buds" in the Bible. In fact, one translation says, "and Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (1 Samuel 18:1b, NRSV). Can you imagine the energy you could harness for serving God's kingdom if your group members developed those kinds of relationships and then turned that love loose on the world?
And what about Ruth and Naomi? After the death of Naomi's son (Ruth's husband), Naomi wants to send her daughter-in-law back to her own people. But Ruth says to her: "Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!" (Ruth 1:16-18, NLT).
That's some kind of love!
Read through Ruth 1 and 1 Samuel 18-20, and then think about these models for loving friendships in the context of your group. Rate your response to the following questions, with 1 meaning "No," 3 meaning "Sometimes," and 5 meaning "Yes."
Do my group members appear to genuinely love one another in spite of human quirks and flaws—demonstrating patience, kindness, gentleness, and other fruits of the Spirit?
Do my group members offer support and encouragement to one another within the group setting?
Do my group members offer support and encouragement to one another outside the group setting?
Have I seen growth in my group members in terms of their willingness to get to know all members individually—asking about their family, their job, their interests, etc.?
Do my group members make an effort to include everyone in the group, even those who may be more quiet and reserved?
Where Two or Three Gather in My name
Mary, Jesus' mother, and her cousin Elizabeth had a deep, spiritual friendship based on their utmost trust in God. Just as women today seek out connections with other moms-to-be when they are pregnant, Mary went to visit Elizabeth, who said upon her arrival, "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!" (Luke 1:45). The friends then spend the next three months together, no doubt continuing to praise God and encourage each other to faithfully follow his rather unexpected plans for their lives.