Connect their faith to a community.
God created us for community
“God created us with a need for community” (Lead Small, Joiner & Shefchunas, p. 25). Adam was alone in the garden and he needed a companion.
I know that there are such things as extroverts and introverts, but each needs community. Extroverts need community to calm them down and introverts need community to pull them out. Community has a way of smoothing the sharp edges of our personalities.
I returned to college after I had been out of college for three years. I was 22 years-old. The church I was at prior to returning used me in a youth ministry role and I both learned a lot and garnered a lot of experience. Many people looked up to me and listened to me intently. When I entered a small Bible college community and talked, I learned pretty quickly that people had thoughts to and they would challenge my thoughts. I wasn’t used to this, but I really enjoyed it. Community humbled me, and continues to humble me as a 36 year-old! We all need companions and groups of people to shape our lives. God created us for community.
Jesus illustrated community
“At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry He chose 12 guys… He led thousands but chose to invest in, to do life with, a few” (p. 25). Jesus exemplified community with a few, with a care toward the masses.
It’s remarkable that Jesus really invested in a few guys. One could even say he spent most of his energy on three in particular: Peter, James and John. Whatever the case, small group leaders today can learn from what Jesus knew implicitly: invest your full self into a few and you will see those few embody and invest in another set of few and so on.
The church practiced community
“Paul… building the church around the concept of community” (p. 26). 1 Thessalonians 2:8 NIV “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well.”
I hear often from those who are nominal sort of Christians that they don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. After all, they believe that God is real and that Jesus died for their sins and that they are going to go to heaven. If that’s all taken care of, why does anyone need to go to church? Apart from this perspective being entirely individualistic, what most Christians with this perspective seem to miss is that church isn’t a religious marketplace where they consume religious goods and services. Rather church, the gathered together redeemed people of God, need the whole body, not just those who think they individually need the body. In other words, while one might not think that they need church, the church really needs them.
This kind of thinking comes directly out of and is confronted by 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (12:12). “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body” (12:12-15). The church, the body of Christ, needs all the parts.
Community is not made for the church. The church is made to practice community; to engage as the collective presence of the people of God.
Your job as a small group leader is to…
“Therefore, connecting the faith of your few to a community is your primary goal. So how do you create community?” (p. 28).
“When you lead small you choose to be present. When you choose to be present you connect authentic faith. When you choose to be present that means you…” (p. 28)
1. Show up predictably, show up consistently. (p. 29)
“Everyone needs someone who is predictable in their life.
– Toddlers need someone who doesn’t look like a stranger
– Elementary schoolers need someone who remember the name of their goldfish.
– Middle schoolers need someone who is up-to-date on their weekly–sometimes daily–dramas.
– High schoolers need someone who knows their personal struggles and is committed to walking through it all with them.” (p. 29)
Students need to know that they’re gonna see you from week to week. An inconsistent small group leader is like an inconsistent friend. You don’t really get to know them because they are just not really around all that much. If you’re committed to leading a few, you need to be present by showing up consistently.
For my family, which is my God-ordained “few,” I could probably be excused from a few trips away from home here and there. But if I’m consistently gone from the home, then I am a distant father who my kids and wife will only know as the absent one who pops in here and there.
2. Show up mentally (pp. 30-31)
Parents don’t have to be gone on a trip to not be present in the home. Far too many parents are emotionally absent with their children. They might be physically present, but they are emotionally somewhere else (like living on Facebook or Pinterest or playing video games into the wee hours of the night).
As a small group leader, it’s great that you are present physically, but it is even better when your brain is in the game. If you find yourself removed from the conversation or when you hear students say your name 5 times, it might mean that you’re either hard of hearing (an often side effect of small group leading or that you’re not mentally engaged.
3. Show up randomly (pp. 35-37)
“Once you start showing up predictably, your few will begin to expect it. Good. But what if, on occasion, you surprised them? What if you showed up at a time and place they weren’t expecting?” (p. 35)
What if you showed up at their:
- sporting event
- school lunchroom
- club fundraiser
…just to give them a high-five and cheer them on or support them?