| Ihor Zhakunets
Small group ministry is one of the ways our church seeks to accomplish Ephesians 4:12 – where church leaders are called “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” Small group meetings provide not only a training ground for equipping but they provide actual ministry opportunities as we spend time together studying God’s Word, applying it to our lives, listening to one another, speaking the truth in love to one another, praying for one another – all in order to build up the body of Christ.
Like any other form of ministry it can be done well or poorly. Here are some behaviors that often undermine small group ministry.
Wait for the small group leader. This is a habit that quickly develops into a small group posture where the leader is seen as the expert who has all the answers. So when a question is posed or something is shared everyone’s heads turn toward the leader awaiting his response. In this situation it would almost feel disrespectful to venture a thought before the leader has spoken.
This ruins small groups. It takes away from the whole body concept – “joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16). Each part needs to be involved and needs to feel the freedom and responsibility to contribute.
Small group leaders, this is often our fault. We eagerly jump in after each comment or question often with good intentions – fearing awkward silence, wrong answers, insensitive responses, etc. But we do more harm than good with this habit. Make it a goal not to be the first one to respond. Develop an atmosphere within the small group that encourages people to answer and react to one another and not wait for you.
Draw the focus to yourself. Another way to ruin a small group meeting is to make yourself the focus of attention. This can happen two ways. First, by monopolizing the time by talking too much. This is the most obvious one. A more subtle way this happens is when we share, not necessarily for too long, but at the wrong time. For example, sometimes after hearing someone share a struggle I am tempted to share my own corresponding struggle. I want the person to know that they are not alone. While this may sometimes be a good thing – often it just takes the focus off that person and what they needed to talk through. Our story trumped their story and the small group moves on leaving the person who first shared uncared for and unheard.
Forget what people have shared. If your small group consistently feels like a first time meeting, something is wrong. This communicates that you do not care enough to remember what was shared and to pray. Make it a goal to pray for what has been shared during small group and follow up either during the week or at least during the next small group meeting.
There are more ways to ruin a small group but these three will do the trick. Is this you? Are you prone to any of these behaviors?