“I can't come tonight―I have to take my daughter to soccer practice.”
“We’re out of town this weekend for our son’s travelling baseball team.”
“We won’t be there next week―we’re celebrating our anniversary.”
And so it goes. Week after week, group members miss due to some conflict―and in any conflict, small group seems to lose out. Life happens, conflicts do arise, and small group is not the only priority for our members. But what if we could make our group’s time together so valuable, members would schedule other activities around it? What if small group was so important to members, they would turn down conflicting invitations and events? What if small group could move up on our members’ lists of priorities? To do so, we must look to the early church.
Faithful to the Word
There is no indication that the early church members had to cajole one another into meeting together. What was their secret? They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings (Acts 2:42–47). In fact, when an issue arose later regarding the distribution of food among the church’s widows, the leaders recognized they needed to address the issue in a way that did not distract from the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:1–4). This faithfulness to the Word pleased the entire group (Acts 6:5), and God blessed their priorities by spreading the Word, growing their numbers, and even converting some of their opponents (Acts 6:7).
Similarly, our small groups need to be faithful to the Word. Believers are called to be committed to the Bible; as a result, the choosing and leading of a good, relevant Bible study encourages commitment to the group. Even recovery and healing groups need to be focused on the Word if any real life-change is to happen. How can a small-group leader help keep the group grounded in the Word?
Keep the studies based on the Bible.
A good inductive study helps group members learn to feed themselves from the Word, but not all studies must be inductive. Many good media-based resources are available. Occasionally reading a book together can add variety, but remember that a steady diet of other people’s teachings can reduce the central focus on God’s Word and limit the growth of group members in their ability to study the Word on their own.
Focus on becoming and making disciples.
Our small groups must be faithful to Jesus’ Great Commission to make disciples, starting with the group members. Our Bible studies need to go beyond imparting information to inducing transformation (Rom. 12:2). As we learn, we should find ourselves becoming less like the world and more like Jesus. Faithfulness to the group increases radically as the group produces life transformation in its members.
- How central is the Bible in your small group?
- Are your Bible studies producing transformation in your group members?
Faithful to the Community
The early church devoted themselves to fellowship in several ways, all of which you can incorporate into your group:
They ate together.
We don’t emphasize this much today, but it was important to the early church. Not only is eating together one of the four “pillars” of Acts 2:42, but we see it again in verse 46. This repetition tells us the importance of this aspect of fellowship. The act of taking meals together helps to connect people in a disconnected world. Today, many people have never met most of their “friends.” Relationships tend to be defined by social media posts―but real relationships require face time. Sharing a meal together allows for relaxed and meaningful conversation that strengthens the loyalty of group members to each other.