Why Small Groups Need to be on Mission

Small groups are much more than just a tool of our churches. Being connected to a church can provide strong Christian relationships (which are necessary), but that's not enough. Still others think that small groups exist to be Bible Studies. Many people put a premium on Bible study and Bible teaching, and these have historically produced believers who are very biblically literate. After all, knowing the Bible transforms people. Right? Not necessarily. There are plenty of people who know the Bible well but still live and behave like pagans. In 1 Corinthians 8:1 Paul wrote, "While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church" (NLT). Bible studies can provide strong Christian knowledge (which is necessary), but that's just not enough.

Remember, Jesus' parting words in Matthew 28:19 were to "go and make disciples of all nations." Discipleship is so much more than Christian relationships and Christian knowledge. Those are two ingredients, but without a third ingredient, true discipleship doesn't happen. So what's that third ingredient? Christian action. "Christian" means imitating Christ, and Jesus' method for making disciples looked a lot different than the methods we find in most of our churches. How did Jesus promote Christian relationships, knowledge, and action? By living on mission.

Mark and Amy's Group

Mark and Amy had a small group of six people and they decided to participate in a one-day mission event coordinated by their church. The mission was to take backpacks filled with school supplies to the poorest elementary school in the area and give them to every student on the role.

Something happened to Mark and Amy's group that day that they didn't expect. They saw more than just happy kids getting free stuff; they saw kids who needed role models, single moms who needed love and ongoing support, and one fourth grade teacher in particular who really grabbed their hearts. When the event was over they asked the teacher if she would let them adopt her class for the entire school year. She didn't really know what they meant, but she said yes.

Every time that class had a party, Mark and Amy's group was there with cupcakes. Every time there was a school play, the group was there to cheer on the kids. Every time there was a field trip, the group was there to chaperone. Every time there was a need in the class, the group was there to meet it.

Before long Mark and Amy's group started inviting the kids to church with them; sure enough, the kids came. Every weekend the group would walk into church with three or four extra kids. Soon one of the kid's mothers came to church, too. And one weekend that mom gave her life to Christ! Eternity was changed because a group handed out school supplies and then went all out in love.

Misplaced Priorities

Our small groups need to quit worrying about whether or not a lesson is prepared every week. We certainly need to quit focusing so much attention on who is bringing enchiladas to group next week. What we need to do is become more like Mark and Amy's group. We need to focus more of our attention on reaching a world that desperately needs Jesus.

No greater learning comes than what we learn to be on mission. No greater fellowship is experienced than what we are on mission. No greater disciples are produced than those produced on mission. When we get off the couch with our small groups and live together on mission, we'll learn a ton, love each other more, and we'll truly be Jesus' disciples.

It's time for your group to get up. Go out. Look with Jesus' eyes. Find a cause. Meet needs. Share the gospel. Change the world!

 

- adopted from Alan Danielson's article on Smallgroups.com copyright 2010 by the author and Christianity Today International.

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How to Communicate more Effectively to your Small Group, Part 2

Last week we began a series of posts about "How to Communicate more Effectively to your Small Group" and we shared some tips on the mode of communication that we have found to be the most effective. This week, we want to delve further into this topic by looking at a crucial element of the communication process–building a relational connection.

John Maxwell, who is one of the premier leadership experts in the country wrote in his book, "Everyone Communicates, Few Connect" that building a connection with people, "is essential for anyone who wants to build great relationships..." How do we do that? Here are some tips for building a connection with the people in your Small Group.

Tip #1 - Make a connection with new group members quickly. As a Small Group leader one of our roles is to make people feel welcomed and loved. This needs to start the moment that they sign-up for a Small Group! The longer that we wait to connect with people, the more doubt and fear can creep into their minds which may cause them to bail on attending a Small Group.

Tip #2 - Go out of your way to make new group members feel welcome. It is really easy in the course of leading your group meeting that you forget to connect with new members. Make it a point of emphasis that whenever you have new members at your group meeting you take time to talk to them, and begin to build a relationship with them. This can be as simple as just asking them a few questions like "tell me how long you have been attending Parkway?" If you wanted to go a step farther, invite them to have lunch after church.

The biggest take-away from failing to make a connection with people in our Small Groups is, we run the risk of them not engaging at a relationship level. This can cause them to turn away from being involved in a Small Group at all! Once people have made their minds up that Small Groups are not a place where I feel accepted and welcome, it's really hard to change their mind. It's imperative that we do all that we can as leaders to connect with people relationally, which will be the foundation for us to communicate effectively.

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How to Communicate more Effectively to your Small Group, Part 1

Last week we looked at the question that we are most often asked as Small Group Pastor's 'how can I get more people to join my group?' This week we wanted to focus on the second most asked question that we get as Small Group Pastor's 'why are people not coming to my group or responding to my emails?' Communicating important information to your Small Group is one of your most important roles as the leader. We know from experience that when people are 'out of the loop' or miss an important piece of communication from their group leader, they become frustrated and it gives them a reason to bail on Small Group.

We want to help you better communicate with your Small Group! Over the next couple of weeks we are going to be sharing some tips on how  you can communicate more effectively with your Small Group. 

  • Tip #1 - Avoid send it and forget it communication! There use to be a time, not that long ago, when sending an email to someone was all the communication that you needed. Unfortunately, that time as come and gone as less and less people are checking their personal email. Email has become something that is associated with work or filed with spam, so people are not reading it consistently. You cannot rely on just sending one email and expecting that people will read it. If you send an email, follow up with a text or better yet, a phone call. 
  • Tip #2 - Text instead of email. Many people have moved exclusively to texting instead of email for communication. We have found that people will respond to a text message before they will respond to emails. 
  • Tip #3 - Technology is your friend. There are a number of great tools available to help you communicate with your group. These include:
    • GroupMe - a free messaging app for group texts
    • Facebook Messenger - a free messaging app that you do not have to be on Facebook to use
    • Band - a free app that you can use to organize and communicate with your group.
    • Your texting app on your mobile device - Whether you are using Android or Apple, you can create group text threads to communicate with your group.

Communicating more effectively starts with understanding how people converse today and that is almost exclusively through texts, DM's, and PM's. Next week we will look at some ways that you can lay a foundation for effective communication through the entire semester.

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Tips for Recruiting People to Join your Small Group

Getting people to join your Small Group can be one of the more challenging parts of being a leader, but it does not have to be. If you are creative and willing to put in a little bit of work, you can utilize these tips to help add additional people to your group.

1) Use social media to promote your group. Facebook is a great place for this and there are neighborhood or interest-based groups (like moms, or empty nesters) that you can join on the site. Once you have joined the Facebook group, you can use the platform to let people know about your Small Group and invite them to join.

2) Invite your neighbors. Do you have neighbors with whom you already have a relationship? Invite them to come and check-out the group.  Make sure and give them the 'out' if they do not want to commit to coming beyond the initial first visit. They may like it and decide to stay!

3) Volunteer to help with Small Group Discovery. At the half-way point of every Small Group semester, we host an event called Small Group Discovery. It's a luncheon designed to give people who have not yet joined a Small Group a taste of what it is like and the opportunity to join groups. Volunteering to help is a great way to meet people who are looking to join a Small Group, build a relationship, and invite them to join your group. If you would like to volunteer to help with Small Group Discovery, you can contact us by clicking here.

These are just a few tips for recruiting more people. Remember that one of the best best way to invite people to anything is through making a personal connection and an individual ask. Spend some time this week thinking about where you are most likely to meet people (grocery store, gym, drop-off line at school) and pray for God to open opportunities to invite them to your Small Group.

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The Advantages of Having Coordinators in your Small Group

If you have heard us say it a hundred times, you know it must be true! If you are leading a Small Group, you need to recruit coordinators to help you. Leading in any capacity is hard and that burden can be lessened if you have others to help you. Here are some advantage to recruiting coordinators for your Small Group:

  • A coordinator can provide you with a perspective that alone you'll probably miss. Leading a group can take a lot of attention to stay on track. A co-leader can pick up on needs through comments or body language that may fly right by you.
  • If you have a mixed group, a coordinator can monitor your timing, signaling you when it's time to cut off the study and move on to prayer requests and prayer. A good coordinator can fill in the awkward gaps or rephrase a question when necessary. This is especially important early in the life of a group when people may still be reluctant to answer. They can also help you set the pace for openness and vulnerability.
  • A coordinator relieves you of much of the responsibility for care, follow-up, and prayer requests. You'll still need to provide some care, make phone calls and pray for your members. But your coordinator can take the bulk of that responsibility.
  • If you're sick, out of town, or can't attend for any other reason. Your coordinators can step in and make sure your group is covered.
  • Perhaps most importantly, this year's coordinators are next year's leaders. Always having leaders "in training" is one of the reasons for the coordinator system. 

Don't be threatened by recruiting coordinators.  Be grateful! Share as much of the leadership as possible with others. Encourage them to branch out and lead a new group next year. There will never be more leaders than there are Small Groups to go around, so you need not fear for your position. Simply divide and multiply!

Adapted from Small Group Bible Studies: How to Lead Them by Pat J. Sikora.

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