Note: This article has been excerpted from Small Groups with Purpose by Steve Gladen.
Setting the Scene
Encourage spiritual partners in your small groups. Ask your small-group leaders to instruct their members to find spiritual partners within the group. Train your leaders to encourage group members to share things they want to surrender and then help them develop a plan to do so. Set up your groups so this is done on a regular, ongoing basis. At Saddleback, we use the Spiritual Health Assessments and Spiritual Health Plans to do this. Talk about spiritual partners and the assessments from the pulpit, during small-group training, during small-group events, and in all your interactions with small-group leaders. Then encourage your small-group leaders to talk about them with their small groups.
Prepare your leaders by enriching their minds and hearts. Give your small-group leaders good books to read for spiritual development such as The Pursuit of God, by A. W. Tozer, and Desiring God, by John Piper.
Engage groups in the presence of God. Have a night of worship to bring groups together for corporate worship. There doesn't have to be a sermon, but provide plenty of time to reflect on God.
Share testimonies in weekend services of God moments. Ask group members to share their testimonies in larger services. There is nothing more powerful than a story from the heart. Be professional but be real and share what God has done through the group.
Basics of Worship in a Small Group
We have found it useful to think of group worship in terms of expressive worship and reflective worship. It does not have to involve music, but it needs to be more than just something to do. It needs to be an experience. Give your small-group leaders a list of suggestions to pass on to their groups that doesn't just tell them to worship but also gives them practical suggestions.
Prayer. Whether as a group or as individuals, make audible prayer a part of every small-group meeting. That doesn't mean forcing each member to pray out loud, but give every member the chance to do so.
Thanksgiving. Go around the group and ask members to say one sentence of thanks to God for something specific in their lives.
Music. This can be low-volume music played in the background during prayer time or an all-out worship fest right in your living room. The idea is to do something that works for your group.
In our small group, John is our unofficial worship leader. Not too long after he started coming to the group, I learned he loves music and plays the guitar. When I chatted with him about his passions, I learned he likes to lead worship. But when I asked him to lead worship for our group, he said, "No, I'm not qualified." This is where most people start, never believing they are ready. But through some encouragement and leading (okay, pushing), John agreed to give it a try. His first time out of the gate was a bit shaky, but over time he has led us in some awesome times of worship.
John grew by taking a risk, but his willingness to step out in faith also encouraged another guy in our group to step out and lead worship too. Now do the two of them think they are the worship champions for our group? No. But are they the worship champions of our group? Yes. Every role in the group has started out like that. In developing roles, just think crawl, walk, run. Everyone starts by crawling, then gradually he or she begins to walk, and before you know it, that person is off and running.