the stoner group

Image of small group

On Wednesday evening at the Stoners’ apartment, it happened! Finally! Was it the announcement of a new puppy in our home? No, never! (Let me repeat that…. never!) Was it news of a return of our income tax of $5,000? No (I wish!). Then what was it that happened on Wednesday night that made me so overjoyed? It was the first evening of the Stoner small group! Me and 7 other souls who came together to start building new relationships with people who love Jesus and want to share that with one another. Our small group was birthed.

small groups are essential

Small groups are essential to the health of any church that wants to be a beacon of light to their community. Experts tell us that when your group has over 40 people you begin to lose the closeness that you began with. At Grace Community church, with over 1000 people, small groups are the lifeline that many people are searching for.

About 20 years ago I was given the task of beginning a ministry of small groups for a church. I found helpful “Leading Life Changing Small Groups” by Bill Donahue, an excellent resource for such an important subject. My team consisted of the 10 couples who would be leading these small groups, with each one being committed to making and growing more disciples. Our theme for the groups was Romans 12:12, Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

the lifelong process of spiritual growth

Well, we had a lot of joy, and we listened to each other’s afflictions, and of course, we were always faithful in prayer. I think what really got us excited about these groups was seeing people being discipled. Yes, it was fun getting together on a regular basis and being able to minster to one another, but it was encouraging to see some individuals who had been a part of the church for many years, begin growing spiritually. Bill Donahue offers this about the potential for growth: “Christ followers know that the grace of God that saved them is only the beginning of his work in them. They gratefully respond by actively pursuing a lifelong process of spiritual growth in Christ and by seeking to become conformed to his image. To this end, they consistently nurture their spiritual development through prayer, worship, and Bible study.”

how much you care

There is an old expression which is still quite true: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”.  This has application in multiple places, and small groups is one of them. Don’t try to impress someone by telling them what they should do, who they should spend time with, or how their plan just isn’t working. Instead, listen to people, ask questions, pray with them. Believe me, there will be plenty of time for the “experts” to weigh in.  If you are leading a group or are a part of a group, remember, time is your friend. Build friendships, learn to laugh together, cry together, and always love one another.

A small group is also fraught with problems: like different personalities, different preferences, and of course my favorite… “I thought it was your turn to bring the snacks”. A great leadership team meets regularly to discuss the highlights of their meetings as well as the problems they encounter.

a microcosm of the larger church

Each small group is a microcosm of the larger church. But each problem becomes another opportunity to teach the principles of discipleship:  forgiveness, humility, kindness, and a love relationship with Jesus. We grow through adversity as we find our strength in Jesus Christ. I hope that everyone who reads this ReCharge will ask themselves a simple question: “Who am I accountable to and who is looking to me to express their joy in hope, their patients in affliction, and someone to pray for them?”

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