We’ve all been to small-group gatherings where the 90-minute meeting felt like 3 hours. Perhaps it’s the lack of meaningful conversation. Or it’s the numerous, long-winded prayer requests that grab the reins and take off in an exhausting direction. The solution is quite simple: help every group member see themselves as a minister. If your group meetings are longer than two hours―or just feel like they’re dragging―here are some helpful reminders and practical tips to move from drudgery to discipleship.
It’s not just about you―it’s about Christ in you.
Many small-group ministries make relationships a priority. Their small groups gather regularly for worship, encouragement, and fellowship―but they are not powerful. When I visit churches with small-group ministries experiencing jaw-dropping growth, I find group members who gather together in Christ’s name and fully expect Christ to be revealed through every member of the group, even the brand-new believers in their midst.
When your members understand they have Christ within and have received the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), they will minister to others every day of the week. When this happens, your gatherings will be full of testimonies of God’s greatness since you last met. This is a form of praise and worship, and every group needs to experience it regularly!
It’s not about the curriculum or how a leader facilitates.
Years ago, I interviewed the members of a very successful small group. The leaders—an ordinary couple with little ministry training—birthed a half-dozen groups out of their original group in the previous three years. When I inquired about their meeting facilitation skills, one member laughed aloud and commented, “To tell you the truth, they aren’t really that good at running a small group meeting … but that’s not important to us.”
What was important to the members? A leader who loved them enough to pray for them daily, show them how to reach friends for Christ, and equip them to minister to other members of the group between meetings. The key is to focus on empowering your members to live out their Christ-centered ministry to others.
Sub-grouping increases member-to-member ministry.
We have consistently practiced creating sub-groups where member-to-member ministry can occur. One week, we will send the men to the kitchen table to share and pray for one another. Another week, we will break up into groups of three where spouses are not allowed in the same group for sharing and prayer. If children are present, we count them in, telling them God will use them powerfully if they will listen and speak up when they hear his voice for someone in the sub-group.
To make it easier, everyone receives ministry questions to share with their smaller group. Quite often, we add one sentence about being a good listener—with a reminder not to over-talk.
Sub-grouping is a great way to get the member-to-member ministry ball rolling. Once your group becomes familiar with it, and it’s not seen as uncomfortable, you can move into what is called “discover and delegate.”
Discover and delegate during prayer time.
Dr. Jim Egli, my small group friend and mentor, taught me something valuable. He encourages group members to consider the weekly meetings a “discovery time” for member-to-member ministry. By reframing the small-group meeting in this way, the group and its leader do not attempt to address all the prayer requests during one night of the week.