Very few things in life translate quicker than passion. And very few things in life show passion more clearly and efficiently than sports. If you're a sports fan, you know what I'm talking about because you've got a team. If you're not a sports fan you know what I'm talking about because you see it everywhere you go. Hats and jerseys declare allegiances and draw lines in the sand. People make trips across the country to watch their team's game, yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs. We bend our lives around the times when our team will be on television, or when our coach will be interviewed. We teach our kids to be fans and to enjoy the team as much as we do. All for a game over which we have absolutely no control. Even so, we're passionate about our sports, and it shows.
Communicating Without Words
I have a friend who wears team hats not because he likes the team, but because he likes the colors.
I don't get it.
I wear my team's apparel to show who and what I'm passionate about. To wear another team's apparel feels disloyal and disingenuous. It would send the wrong signal about who and what I'm passionate about.
I wonder, though, if the same thing can be said about my ministry passions. Do people quickly know about my passion for small groups when they meet me? Or am I sending the wrong signal? What about you?
If we're passionate about ministry, the room will light up. Everybody will watch and begin to catch our passion. Passion is infectious. On the other hand, if I stand up to lead and I'm not passionate about what I'm doing, others will catch the lack of passion, too. It will drain the life right out of the room. It's important that our passion for our ministry is coming through loud and clear.
When Your Passion Is Gone
Unfortunately, sometimes we seem to lose our passion. It can be absent for a number of reasons. Sometimes we're in the wrong role. Other times, we've become discouraged or we've lost touch with God's vision for our ministry. Sometimes we simply lose our passion over time, and we need to be reenergized.
Return to your first love.
Jesus' words to the church at Ephesus can be applied to us: "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first" (Revelation 2:4). We can get so into the "doing" of ministry that we forget why we got into ministry in the first place. This is a dangerous spot to find ourselves.
What was it that drew you to groups in the first place? Was it a small group that helped you through a rough spot? Was it that you came alive in a group? Began to understand Scripture? Fostered a lifelong friendship? Found God?
Remind yourself of that before your next group meeting. Return to your first love. The love you had when Jesus saved you. The love you felt when you were ministered to in a group for the first time. The love you experienced when you first helped a fellow group member.
Growing up, my local church would bring in a missionary couple once per quarter on a Sunday evening to share about the work they were doing. Some were working overseas, others domestically. Either way, the format was the same.
My pastor would come on stage with his tie a little looser, and I could sense what was coming: nap time. He'd give a brief intro and have the congregation welcome the missionary couple to stage. They'd share a few words in another language, thank us for having them, hit the lights, and queue the slideshow. For the next 45 minutes, they'd scroll through slide after slide of pictures of huts and out-of-focus large-group pictures. Occasionally they'd turn to each other and say, "Hmm. What is that, honey? Did you take that picture?"
Part of me felt guilty for napping through these presentations. After all, these were people who were giving their entire lives to serve God and others. But their exciting lives and passions weren't reflected in their presentations. What should have been the most exciting nights of the year were the most boring.
We can learn something from these boring presentations. Our passion must be alive and well in us, and we must ensure that it's radiating from us as we minister. As we serve in small-group ministry, we want to exude passion. But how do we do that?
Make a point to pray for your small-group members every week by name. Pray for the requests they've shared during your group meetings. Pray for their kids, their job, and their participation in group. As you pray for your group members, you'll begin to see them through the lens of Christ, and you'll be even more passionate about helping them connect and grow.
Read the Bible
Find passages that remind you of your need for community. Passages like Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 10:24-25, Romans 12:3-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, or any of the "one another" passages in the Bible will keep your focus on the importance of community. The more you get into the Word, the more connected you'll be to Christ and his mission. Let the Word embed deeply in your heart.
Grab coffee with one or two of your group members at a time, making sure you meet with every person each month. Ask them what they love about your group and why they come back week after week. Ask what they need from you and the group. Find out how you can help them grow. Hearing their stories will further your passion for small groups. Just don't forget to actually make changes based on their suggestions.
In all the seriousness of ministry, it's easy to forget how fun small groups can be. But if you're not having fun, nobody else will either. Put the curriculum down this week and go bowling with your group. Or go build a bonfire and roast marshmallows. You could also do a scavenger hunt across your city, go out to eat, or host a game night. As you enjoy your small group, your passion for what God can do through small groups will be restored.
If your passion is fading, it's easier than you think to get it back. It just takes a little intentionality, and it's worth the effort. When you're passionate about your ministry, your passion will infect everyone around you, and your ministry will be more successful.
—Ben Reed is the Small Group Pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church; copyright 2014 by Christianity Today.