I had a lot of fun in 2010, mainly because I had the privilege of working with a great group of authors—and the privilege of serving a fantastic audience. Thank you for allowing us to provide you with resources that inspire life-changing community in your churches and your small groups.
Of course, I feel pretty strongly that all of the resources featured on SmallGroups.com are high-quality and deserving of recognition. However, each year we like to feature the ten resources that did the best job of catching your attention.
So, without further delay, here are the Top 10 resources of 2010 from SmallGroups.com!
Just like it's important to have routine medical checkups to gauge your physical well-being, the small groups in your church need periods of assessment and evaluation in order to properly maintain ministry health. The handouts in this Assessment Pack are designed to evaluate specific dimensions of small-group ministry. They address individual small groups as well as church-wide group ministries.
This 13-session course on marriage will be ideal for your Sunday school quarterly curriculum or to use in your small group. It covers such topics as learning to appreciate your spouse, money matters, faith, handling conflict, sex, communication, and compromise. Most of all it will help couples know how to express grace and love to one another.
These six Bible studies help couples grow in their relationship to God and get practical, biblical perspectives on money, differences, sex, and more.
There are many small-group leaders who approach the Bible-study portion of their group gatherings with something that is awfully close to dread. And that is a shame. There are several reasons why this happens, but most of them boil down to one basic idea: they are not sure what they are supposed to be accomplishing. Should they be helping their group members learn information and facts from the Bible? Is that most important? Or should they spend their time and effort making sure that as many group members participate as possible? Or should they try to spark some kind of controversy so that people engage in a debate?
In reality, none of those should be the primary goal for small-group leaders. Their focus during the Bible study should be the same as their focus for the rest of the group's activities: Transformation. Spiritual growth. Life change. That is what small groups are all about, and that is the subject of this downloadable resource.
Starting a new small group is no easy task. Most new group leaders are recruited because they are willing and capable, but that doesn't mean they know what they are doing. The five resources bundled into this downloadable pack will give any new group leader a valuable head start in creating a meaningful community for Christ and his Kingdom.
(And yes, we are offering five resources in this "four pack." Don't tell our bosses!)
Prayer is a major part of every small group. Or at least it should be—when the goal of gathering together is spiritual growth and transformation, the Holy Spirit needs to be involved. And prayer before, during, and after a group gathering is a key element in that involvement.
Unfortunately, prayer has become an uncomfortable time for many small-group members. Or a boring time. Or a waste of time. That's because many groups dig themselves into a rut during prayer time—doing the same thing week after week. At some point, sharing around the circle and praying for the person on your right just loses its meaning. Fortunately, the resources contained in this training packet can help.
Providing guidance and direction for believers takes personal skills and spiritual insight. This Orientation Guide draws on the collective wisdom of spiritual leaders to equip spiritual directors to shepherd with care and effectiveness.
American culture tends to favor extroverts over introverts. If you are quick to speak, assertive in groups, or energized by being around others, you will usually have a better chance to succeed. The same is often true in our churches. So what does that mean for introverted pastors and church leaders? This 44-page resource offers a wealth of insights into how introverts who lead in the church, and in groups, can understand their own gifting and calling, how they can guard against fatigue and burnout, and how they can lead the people around them, extroverts and introverts alike. Of course both introverts and extroverts are sinners, so these articles don't exalt one personality type or demonize another. Instead, they can help everyone be more sensitive to the way in which introverts are wired and how God might choose to use them.
Those of us who lead a small group need to recognize that we have taken on a significant task: we have a direct connection to the spiritual health and wellbeing of the people we lead. We are not responsible for their spiritual health and growth—that is the Holy Spirit's role. But we as group leaders are responsible for creating an environment that is conducive to the work of the Holy Spirit.
With that in mind, it's a good idea for us to undergo a "group leader checkup" every now and then. We need to take a step back from our groups and evaluate whether we are doing a good job as leaders, and whether the group as a whole (and the individuals within) are responding in a positive way.
Studies show that a large majority of churches in the USA are smaller in size—having fewer than 200 members. So what is necessary when it comes to these churches starting a small-groups ministry?
If you are exploring the option of launching a small-groups ministry in your church, you have probably already planned one or more meetings to discuss the option. And that's where this Training Theme can help—it provides a schedule and helpful resources to help your church's leaders think through the issues surrounding a small-groups launch, and what your church should do next.
—Sam O'Neal; copyright 2011 by the author and Christianity Today International.