by Robert Noland
Today, a vast majority of American Christians live in isolation. Yes, we smile and say “hi” at church, post our pictures and thoughts on social media, but rarely engage with others on a true heart level. Herein lies the dire need for effective small groups in the church to provide a doorway to real community.
To understand the goal and value of small group ministry today, we must go back to the source—Acts 2:42-47.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Taking this passage apart and applying to today’s small groups, we should then…
1. Read and study the Bible together.
While it is certainly fitting to go through studies, curriculum, or a DVD series, all core activity of the group should be Scripture-focused—talking through, processing, sharing thoughts and questions on God’s Word together.
The small group should be a safe place for doubts and fear to be expressed, as well as inspiration and motivation for the victorious life.
2. Be in authentic fellowship with one another.
Essentially, this simple concept means you truly know each other. Your relationships are past the surface and going ever deeper. The early church didn’t build upon shallowness and neither should we.
There is care, respect, and genuine love for one another. These are your “heart friends” with whom you could trust your life.
3. Share meals together.
Like any close family, gathering around the table for a meal is an intimate, yet casual encounter where a personal and spiritual dynamic occurs like no other.
Laughter and light-hearted fun can mark these events and create a unique closeness for group members. These are also excellent doorways to invite others to enter into the fold.
4. Pray together.
Go before the throne of God for each other, your families, your church, and your circles of influence. There is an intimate strength gained through open and unhurried prayer times. Celebrate God’s victories together and cry out to Him in crises as well.
Nothing is too small for your group to pray about and nothing too big either.
As with the early church, these elements can create:
- common love for God and each other, unlike any other social circle.
- overwhelming desire to put each other before self; to meet needs and share life.
- strong draw to regularly gather, because the value of such has been recognized and realized by all.
- deep sense of worship for God and gratitude for relationships now formed for eternity.
- corporate and individual calling to see others come into the kingdom and experience the level of community your group members have.
The healthy, biblical small group is a window for the world to see Jesus.
Robert Noland has been in ministry for more than 30 years. He’s a writer living in Franklin, Tennessee.