There are some qualities that every small group must have to prosper: quality biblical content with a Christ-centered focus, a sense of community, a rich experience of Christ, progressive life change and outward impact on the world.
This might come as a surprise, but small group Bible studies study the Bible. God has revealed Himself to us in His Word, and the ultimate goal of studying the Bible together is to point the group to Christ. It’s not about biblical knowledge in itself but about using the Bible as a map that leads us to Jesus.
Your group needs to experience Christ, not just learn more about the Bible. In no way do we want to move away from the Bible — it is the Word of God — but as you study Scripture, you want to help your group see Jesus. Your group should be looking to discover how the text relates to and points to Christ and His redemptive work.
Community is the sense within the group that the members are a team, bonded as friends and committed to each other’s well-being and growth. This doesn’t happen all at once. Healthy, growing groups have an increasing sense of community.
Over time, individuals rejoice together and share in sorrow together. A group moves from being “Tom’s group” to “our group” as members begin to take ownership. A leader can help facilitate this, but community is not primarily a leadership issue. It’s a oneness that becomes apparent when individuals come to value others in the group.
As a leader, your role is to stimulate group members to encounter and experience Christ for themselves. One of the biggest obstacles for small group leaders is feeling the need to have all the answers — to have the “map” memorized.
Leaders don’t need to have all the answers, but they do need to experience Christ for themselves and know how to point others to Him. This comes from knowing people’s greatest needs, having an understanding of how real change happens, and being skilled at asking good questions that engage the heart.
Each person in your group should taste, see and personally encounter Christ as you come to the Bible.
Successful small groups are about life change. Each week, the members of your group will show up in various cycles of life — coming from great days, middling days and those days when life just seems hard. Their conditions may be obvious or not so obvious.
As a leader, allow the Bible to expose brokenness and help the group follow the passage as it points toward a solution in Jesus Christ. This is how life change happens. If a group stops short of being a catalyst for life change, it has fallen short of all God intends for it.
One thing that’s often neglected in small groups is communicating God’s purpose for the world and how we fit into the picture. Content is not the only ingredient needed for growth. Knowing how God can use us in His plan is a critical ingredient. Catching His heart for people around the world is motivating.
His love moves us to action. We’re not here just for theory, debate or platitudes. We exist to glorify God and be used by Him. Sometimes, when we share our faith, there’s an overwhelming sense that “God can use me!”
How do you build vision in your group? Here are some suggestions.
Highlight sections from a visionary book or magazine like:
Another element for your small group is training. Share practical, helpful, specific ideas on how to live and minister to others. How do you have a quiet time? How do you study the Bible? Can you share Christ comfortably with a friend? How do you answer someone’s questions about Christianity? Can you share your testimony in three minutes? How do you help a new Christian grow?
Use the Operation World prayer book and a map to show what God is doing around the world.
Or discuss a passage from the Bible about engaging in active service for Christ.
Help your group develop the skills they need to address situations like these effectively:
Prayer is an expression of our dependence on God. By praying with your group, you’ll help people see their need for Him. Most small groups have time set aside for prayer, but often it’s a quick sharing of requests for the week.
Creativity is the element most needed in prayer. Sometimes you need to ask, How has God answered prayer this week? What are you trusting Him for? When people in your group see God’s answers to prayer, they get pumped. When you pray together, a powerful bond forms in the group.
It’s also important to pray for other people, issues and events outside your small group. Here are some other things to consider for prayer:
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Several questions may come to mind as you plan your small group. Here are four components that are key to most small groups or Bible studies that will answer your questions.
Life-changing small group environments are less about how-tos and more about experiencing Jesus. They are not focused on building head knowledge but on changing hearts and minds. These communities not only equip their members for service but also expose sin and call people to adore Christ. Christ-centered communities transform lives from the inside out.
An environment where Christians and non-Christians can study the Bible together and care for one another can be beneficial to everyone involved.
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