Oftentimes the poor, homeless, and less fortunate are left to fend for themselves. Even those facing tragedy or crisis can feel they're on the edge of abandonment. Everyone seems to believe that someone else will take care of these needs. And when everyone thinks someone else is taking care of it, no one actually does. Small groups, however, have the potential to change this negative cycle by reaching out to those in need. But it begins on the inside.
Relationships are a driving force for many people to join a small group. People enter groups searching for love and hope. The beauty of small groups is the ability to build up members and meet them where they are. As people are filled with the love and hope of God, it begins to overflow onto others. Group members can move from a self-focused outlook to an others-focused outlook.
There are many ways group members can share the love and joy they've received from God. Here are four ideas to inspire you.
Be the Church
As the life-group coordinator at The Simple Church, our "Be the Church" event is one of my favorite things to do. Four times a year, we cancel weekend services in order to go out into the community and "be the church." To get small groups involved, I encourage leaders to discuss with their groups the various opportunities offered that day. They decide together how they will serve. We have done everything from cooking breakfast for homeless HIV and AIDS patients, to cleaning up low-income schoolyards in our area. Regardless of whether the group feels "service-centered," Be the Church allows for all people to have a taste of loving others. As an alternative, or as a response to serving during Be the Church, your group could serve together once a month in a way that all the group members can support.
Covered in Love
While I have a very short attention span, I somehow manage to sit still for hours while quilting. In response to this hobby, I helped form a service group centered on quilting. There is no level of experience needed, only a desire to build relationships. We begin our meeting with a DVD-based curriculum. Then, as we quilt, we talk about the study and share our lives with one another. For our first project, we crafted a quilt and gave it to a nonprofit that works with abused children. Often these children are extracted from their homes, leaving everything behind. The facility provides children with some homey items like blankets and quilts.
Think of a local nonprofit or ministry in your area that could benefit from a blanket or quilt drive. Design your group in such a way that it focuses on a mission while also focusing on relationships. Not a quilter? Make cards, knit scarves, or create holiday decorations and decide to whom you'll donate your crafts.
Projects with Purpose
If you are not familiar with Pinterest, you should be! This site is fairly new, but has become hugely popular in a short amount of time. It allows users to create virtual bulletin boards where they can "pin" craft ideas, pictures, recipes, and other things that they've found on the Internet. Users can find a multitude of fun, easy projects for any skill level as they browse the site.
A small group could take a few of these easy projects and complete a project once a month to give away to those in need in the community. For instance, you could take a couple of the recipe ideas from Pinterest, meet together at someone's home and do a "Bake and Take." Make several recipes and share them with people in the community. You can take baked delights to a homeless shelter or to the homeless you see on the street. Or you may also want to bless nurses at a local hospital with your treats. Whatever you choose to do, this is a fun way to serve people in your community.
Cycle of Life
This project requires more skill; however, it can still appeal to all people. Our church has a group that enjoys riding road and mountain bikes. Any level of rider is welcome. Members meet once a week for the official small-group meeting, but they often plan additional days to ride together as well. Throughout the course of the semester, the group rides in races that benefit causes. They have ridden in races to raise funds for a nonprofit that attends to the mentally challenged, and to raise money for wells in Honduras. This group enjoys a fun way to grow closer to one another and provide for local and global needs through their hobby.
All groups have the opportunity to reach those in need. Help your group members understand that God calls us to be generous with what he's given us, to allow his love and joy to overflow onto others.
—Peri Gilbert is the Small-Group Coordinator at The Simple Church in Bossier City, Louisiana. Used with permission from the author.