A Weekly Meeting
Every men's group I lead meets weekly. Other than a few weeks off for holidays or vacations, my group meets. Our relationships run deep, and our commitment is clear. My community group, though, is a different story. We'll meet every week for a month, shift to every other week for a while, or take a few weeks off if necessary. We schedule our gathering around our work, kids, and vacations. Certainly a group that meets infrequently risks losing its identity quickly. We have to work hard to keep up relationships. But we believe that the meeting frequency shouldn't feel like an obligation or chore. At the same time, it shouldn't it feel like a capricious, thrown-together meeting designed around the convenience of the group members.
Three Patterns of Vibrant Groups
So what are the core pieces of a healthy group? In my years of experience leading groups and leading small-group ministries, I have identified three core patterns of healthy groups. You can add to this list, but you can't reduce it without harming the group. The three patterns are connecting, changing, and cultivating. You will notice that all three of these words are verbs—simply put, they involve action. They don't describe community; they are the actions of a vibrant community.
The first pattern of a healthy group is the relational pattern. You have to build a relational bridge strong enough to hold the weight of truth. Imagine in your first group meeting the leader reads James 1 and asks each new member to share a trial or temptation they are facing. How would you reply? Would you be 100 percent honest and transparent? I doubt it. If you are like me you might say, "Well, I'm tempted to be too generous. And sometimes I have a short fuse." However, if you know the people in your group and you are comfortable with them, you will likely feel safe enough to share what is really going on in your life.
If you don't build the relationships within the group you won't have a group for long. A few years ago, Gallup conducted research on church health. One of the important factors that contributed to enthusiasm for church was friendship. If you have no friends at church you will likely wander away. If you do have friends—people who call you when you're absent, ask how you are doing spiritually, and encourage you—you will likely have a strong commitment to your church. Likewise, you will have a strong commitment to your small group.
Simple things you can do to develop the connecting pattern in your group:
- Start each meeting with an icebreaker.
- Plan out group meetings at least a month or two in advance so everyone knows when to meet.
- Deal with negative group dynamics (like the person who dominates the conversation in the group).
- Call and e-mail people who miss a meeting.
The second key pattern of a healthy group is the growth pattern. Some call it edification or sanctification or metamorphoses. Simply put, it's change! A vibrant group helps you change into the person God intends you to be.