Intentional Spiritual Growth in Small Groups

Intentional Spiritual Growth in Small Groups

Understanding how we grow and change
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Share your own desires and struggles to model healthy disclosure. Listen between the lines when group members share stories or prayer requests. Consider the events of group members' lives that repeat or keep them in a negative cycle. Listen for phrases that stand out to group members as you read through the Bible. Above all, show that you genuinely care about your group members, share from your heart, and keep judgments outside your discussion. If you're new to each other or haven't gotten to a level of sharing authentically yet, invest time in getting to know one another, sharing testimonies and favorite verses, and praying for one another.

Cater the Curriculum to Group Members' Needs
Once you know the desires and felt needs of the group—whether or not they've been explicitly stated—you can begin helping your group members gain the knowledge they need to see life change. So, for instance, if several group members have expressed a desire for healthier spending habits, you may want to work through a specific money management curriculum, look through passages in the Gospels about money and wealth, or hear firsthand from someone in your church who has turned their finances around. You'll want your group members to hear God's Word on the subject, but how you get that message could vary, and it's okay to use different means.

Realistically, it's unlikely that your entire group will have the same specific desire like this at the same time. So instead of making the curriculum as specific as a financial curriculum, consider the underlying desires—the real needs—that several group members are experiencing. The person desiring healthier spending habits may have the underlying desire to depend on God more. That more general desire will also line up with the group member who is struggling with worry, the single women who wonders if she'll ever get married, and the overachieving workaholic. Focusing on the desire to depend on God more will appeal to many, if not most, of your group members. Additionally, it's a topic that regularly comes up in the Christian life, so even if someone doesn't currently feel this desire, he or she probably has or will sometime soon.

When you introduce your study or discussion, make sure to tie it back to this desire. Before you even dive in, let people know how it intersects with life. In other words, identify the issue that your discussion will seek to resolve. If your group members know the discussion relates to them in some way, they'll be more likely to engage and take the new information to heart.

Remain Open to the Spirit's Movement
The best leaders make plans but stay open to what the Spirit may want to do in the meeting. For most, this doesn't come naturally, but over time, you can get better at it. Our goal should be to work alongside the Spirit, allowing him to do the work of transformation. The leader's responsibility is to help create an environment where the Spirit can work.

Carol Lackey Hess explains the Spirit is "simultaneously expressed as the Presence of God which confronts us with our creaturely finitude and limit and the Presence of God which makes possible the opening up of our disruptive limits." So, the Spirit both "cuts us to the heart" and opens up our heart so transformation can take place. As Christians, we recognize that true change never occurs by our own hand. Yes, we must engage in the process, but in the end, someone totally other must do the work because we simply aren't capable of it on our own. The Spirit does this work, and even simply acknowledging this fact can have a huge impact on our growth. At the same time, this knowledge can't release us from this transformation dance with the Spirit that requires our engagement. We are never off the hook in the process. We must work alongside the Spirit to experience this change.

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