Encouraging John accomplished a couple of things: (1) Our group benefits from John's gifts because he is really good at what he does. (2) John's increased involvement in the group gives him a sense of ownership. He feels like he's contributing and making a difference with the gifts God has given him. He may not know the Bible well, and he may not really know how to share his faith yet, but he knows how to worship and love God.
Sharing struggles. Encourage group members to share their struggles with the entire group. As they do so, stop and pray for each other.
Sharing God stories. Tell each other how God is working in your life. Such stories can be a great way of not only adding depth to your relationship but also worshiping God for all he is doing in your lives.
One of the stories I share is about when Lisa and I were thinking about moving to Colorado. Soon after we were married, it became clear to us that our ministry in North Hollywood was coming to a close. Since my parents had always taught me to pray specifically, and we were going to be making a change in churches, I told Lisa that if we had to move, we should pray for a desirable geographical location. So we pulled out a map and said, "Lord, if we have a choice, we would like to pray for a ministry opportunity in San Diego, the Bay Area in Northern California, or because we both like the mountains, the Rocky Mountains." Not feeling the Rocky Mountains was specific enough since they run across six states, we narrowed it down to Denver.
Less than 30 days later I received a call from a church concerning a job opening. They told me what a great opportunity this new position was, that their church was poised for the next move of God, that they were looking for someone like me who wanted to do ministry, and so on. I honestly wasn't paying too much attention until they said they were located in Denver. My ears perked up and I asked them to repeat everything, because I was now listening with a different perspective. I agreed to explore the opportunity, and they agreed to send me an information package.
After I hung up with them, I quickly phoned Lisa and told her about the call. But we both quickly wondered if it was from God or just a coincidence. Later that week the information package arrived, and in it was a book the pastor, Charles Blair, had written, The Man Who Could Do No Wrong. In one section of the book, Blair writes about ignoring his wife's counsel on a certain situation. As a result, the church suffered a major difficulty. Well, I thought if it was good enough for him, it would be good enough for me too. So on Wednesday during lunch at Numero Uno Pizza in North Hollywood, I asked Lisa for her counsel. I asked her if there was something heavy on her heart about this potential move. If so, I wanted us to pray about it to see if this was God's leading. I fully expected her to say something about leaving her family, because they had lived for generations in the Los Angeles Basin and this move would be 1,000 miles away! Instead, her short answer was, "The snow." She was born and raised in Burbank, California, and was fearful about driving in the snow. So I said, "We'll pray about the snow," and we prayed God would calm her fears and make our path clear.
That evening in Lisa's small group, for some reason the leader changed the normal study and decided to explore a Scripture that deals with fear: "When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet" (Proverbs 31:21). Later that night Lisa shared with me what had happened. God or coincidence? Are you kidding me? Could God have made it any clearer?