Sometimes people go to a group and try to make a group be what they want it to be. Some people want to be part of a group focused on prayer, so they try to have a lot of prayer in your group. Some people want to study the Bible and theology, so that is all they think your group should spend its time on. Other people want to have Christian friends and experience fellowship, so they only want to enjoy time with others and have no interest in Bible study or prayer time.
ENSURE EVERYONE UNDERSTANDS THE PURPOSE OF THE GROUP FROM DAY ONE
Yet, as a LIFEGroup, we want to have a balance of several areas. Your job as a facilitator is to ensure your group touches on the different elements that each small group needs to have. It reminds me of a story from the book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah Sets the Pace and Direction for His Ministry
Three local leaders are causing issues for Nehemiah and his people that were rebuilding the walls around the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah describes it this way,
Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates. So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?” Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply. (Neh 6:1-4)
Nehemiah knew this “meeting” would not be a good one. In fact, he knew that they wanted to meet with him so they could harm him.[ref]“They were plotting against him, probably planning to slay him” (J. Vernon McGee, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, p. 125).[/ref] Nehemiah refused their request for a meeting and he “continued the work with even greater determination” (Neh 6:9). As a small group facilitator, sometimes, people try to derail your group and make the group what they want it to be. But, you are the leader and you must keep the group on track. There are two things that will help you do this: the LIFE description and Covenant of Love.
The “LIFE” in our LIFEGroups
The small groups at our church can meet on different days and at different times, can consist of men-only or women-only or couples or singles, and they can do topical studies or verse-by-verse Bible studies. In this manner, the groups can have a slightly different flavor or feel, but at the same time, we want to make sure that all the groups have the same food substance. The LIFE description is that food substance that all the groups need to have.[ref]The LIFE acrostic is a copyright of David Ward Miller.[/ref]
Learning: Instilling the Word of God.
This is the “meat” or “protein” part of every small group. Every small group at our church needs to be connected to the Bible and rely on the Bible for teaching and guidance.
Including: Assimilating New People.
This is the “fruit” and “veggies.” Some members of your group are sweet fruit, others are sour fruit, and others are blander like vegetables.
Fellowship: Experiencing Biblical Fellowship.
This is the “milk” of every meal. Just as milk is a good staple used in all meals and recipes, fellowship should be a part of every small group and every gathering.
Equipping: Preparing People to Minister.
This is the “bread” of a meal where you get the carbohydrates. This is the energy and how we do ministry. Each small group should work together to serve at our church or in the community once a year, and each person in each small group should find a ministry he can be part of.
While each small group might have different spices and flavors, we want each group to have the same ingredients: God’s Word (meat), new people (fruit and veggies), fellowship (milk), and ministry (bread). These four elements will help you ensure you have a healthy and balanced small group.
The Covenant of Love
The Covenant of Love is another way to make sure that everyone understands the purpose of your group. (This is why you should review it with your group every fall.) The Covenant of Love contains seven principles that help your group stay on track.[ref]The Covenant of Love material is a copyright of David Ward Miller, my former senior pastor.[/ref]
- Faithful: In attending both my small group and weekend worship experience.
- Punctual: In arriving on time and leaving the small group on time.
- Edifying: In building up and encouraging others in my small group.
- Open: In learning to be more transparent with others in my group.
- Confidential: In being trustworthy with the transparency of others.
- Gracious: In not criticizing the church or other people.
- Courteous: In listening well and not dominating the discussion.
Each LIFEGroup has a slightly different flavor, but the purpose should always be the same: learn God’s Word, connect new people from church, enjoy fellowship with each other, and serve others. Each group needs to have those four purposes. So make sure that everyone understands this is why your group exists.