Small Group Central Team

How your group can make a difference this Summer

For small groups, the summer can be more than just going abroad for holidays and going incognito for six weeks. Summer can be a perfect time for the Church to give extra to their local community.

We love to have our small group socials, going on walks, described as “just a short one”, followed by a quick drink at the local pub in a quiet, secluded table away from everyone else.

But I would ask this question to our small groups – when was the last time your group made a difference to the community? What events did you organise that were an example of life lived to the full?

I’m not attempting to bash people with smart quips, or to say that believers don’t do enough in this particular season. But, I would like to suggest that we should get stuck in.

British summers offer a variety of possible events, despite frequent weather changes, and I’d like to suggest a few that could impact your community, and might just even get people interested in Jesus.

  • Fun-Days – Whether you have access to your local high street, or perhaps a village green, fun-days are a great way to meet your community with a whole load of activities: sports, face painting, creative performances, things that all ages can feel a part of.
  • Church in the Park – Fancy getting the Gospel of Jesus out to your community, but you don’t have a building? Hire a marquee, get out on your streets and start inviting people to multiple services you can run throughout the day. People’s lives can be transformed at any time, and this doesn’t have to be just on a Sunday morning.
  • Free Concerts – People love music, and if there is a free live music on offer, I guarantee most people will snatch up that offer. You could even get your small group along to an open mic event, it’s easy to start conversation with anyone else in the audience.
  • Social Action Work –If you want to show love to your community through good deeds then use the MATRIX Trust, who are brilliant at Social Action work, as inspiration. You could offer to paint your neighbours fence, completely redo someone’s garden, and maybe even take all their rubbish to the tip? Speak with your neighbours, see what needs to be done, then ask what you can do for them. If they ask why, you can use it as an opportunity to tell them about your faith.

These are just a few ideas that I know have worked before.

Get stuck in this summer: be brave, be bold, and show your community what Jesus’ love has changed for you.

By Chay
Chay is an aspiring filmmaker and photographer. He loves to tell bad puns, and is part of the ‘Pastor’s Kids Society’ in Surrey.

Picking your fight

Our church wouldn’t feel like home for so many if it wasn’t for our collection of diverse and engaging small groups. It’s within these small groups that people find family. In our fast-growing church community, they are a wonderful way for members of our congregation to make friends that last a lifetime, pray together, disciple each other and walk with each other through the joy, tough stuff and curveballs life can throw at us all.

But if in fast-growing and larger church communities small groups are where ‘church’ really happens – how do we ensure and facilitate our groups becoming and staying outward looking too?

The call in Isaiah 58 and 61 to serve the poor, bind up the broken hearted and serve those around us so that they might know the love of God is a call for us in our small groups too – and what a great place to start!

In our church, we are planning to encourage small group leaders to rally their groups together and ‘Pick a Fight’. We are going to suggest that each small group adopts a cause and devotes some of their time to make a difference in that area, whether that’s locally, or nationally!

For example, a small group that is mostly young families might choose to ‘Pick a Fight’ for their local primary school. They might decide to regularly pray for those that work and attend the school, attend PTA events and maybe become governors – anything they believe will bring a bit more of the kingdom of God to that part of the world!

Different small groups made up of those from different demographics will come up will come up with brilliant and diverse ideas. Some might want to focus on reaching out to those involved in local nightlife, supporting local refugees or even devoting their time to a local home for older adults – the possibilities are endless.

When we focus on loving our neighbour, the most beautiful miracles happen, and small groups seem like the perfect place for these miracles to begin. Having the support of loving friends and the prayers of a small group will encourage vision and help us take those first steps into action into loving our communities better.

So let’s go out there, and encourage our small groups to change the world!

By Jazz Crowne
Jazz Crowne co-ordinates the community outreach work for Emmaus Road church Guildford and oversees the churches midweek small groups. She loves a good coffee, a good joke and a good book, regardless of what it’s about.

Being a contributor not just an attender

If you attend a church for long enough you will no doubt be encouraged to join a small group. For churchgoers, a small group is usually active rather than passive. At church you can hide in the background and not participate, whereas I think a small group is all about participation. Even though I recognise this, I sometimes struggle myself to be brave and share a view point or open up about what is happening in my life.

I am trying not to hide behind my phone or clock watch and I am trying to contribute more than a couple nebulous words every meeting. I have been an “attender” and with each small group meeting I am trying to become more of a “contributor”. I think the phrase “you only get out what you put in” is apt when it comes to small groups.

If you’re like me and not the most confident person I want to encourage you to be brave in your small group and become a contributor, and here are some reasons why:

  • Like you and I there are many other people out there who struggle with confidence, so you are not alone. If you are brave and get involved you will encourage others to do so as well.
  • Many people go to small groups because they want to learn, they want to hear your views and reactions as it helps them learn. Your opinion might open a whole new way of looking at something for them.
  • Many people in small groups like to share their knowledge by asking questions you give other people the chance to get actively involved and share their own thoughts.
  • As a small group leader there is nothing worse than long silences when you are leading. When you share ideas or ask questions you can really enthuse and empower the leader.
  • People in your small group will want to pray for you and support you. The braver you are with sharing things that are happening in your life the more opportunities there are for people to come alongside you and support you – not only in the group but outside of it as well.

So if you are lacking in confidence take a deep breath and think of one thing you can do to make your small group experience better and do it. It could be switching off your phone or asking the group to pray for you. I’m not saying things will change like a flick of a switch, but life and small groups are journeys and sometimes the smallest steps can be the most important ones to make.

By Adam
Adam is a keen camper and loves going on adventures with his family. Whilst not in a field somewhere he enjoys working in the marketing team at CWR and worshipping at Gorse Hill Baptist Church.

Have fun feeding your small group

I have been the very happy and willing recipient of lots of hospitality in my hugely blessed life. By hospitality I suppose I just mean being handed nice food for free! These moments of blessing usually happen at church, small group, and in the homes of friends and family. It even bizarrely happens to me at work (more of that to follow!).

On a good day, being ‘shown hospitality’ just offers an extra moment of indulgence, of being cared for and a reminder that I am a loved human being.

On a bad day, receiving hospitality can be a nutritional and emotional life ring.

After a couple of decades of being repeatedly fed and blessed by other people, the penny dropped that if getting handed free food was so wonderful to experience, it would be something I could sometimes do to cheer up others.

Preparation for showing hospitality with food does take a little bit of time, effort and money, but trust me: not much and you get it all back tenfold in blessing from God. Once your heart is ready to bless others things have a funny way of happening easily. Almost as if God’s favour is on you…

At work (CWR / Waverley Abbey College), there’s a guy called Bob. He’s quite busy because he’s the College Director, but he’s also got a great side line: he’s a great baker of cakes and blesser of people. So he often randomly turns up in the office with an enormous fresh-from-the-oven lemon drizzle or coffee or jam sponge cake to feed the team. We are always grateful for the treat, and some hectic days when I’ve raced out of the house with neither breakfast in my tummy nor a packed lunch in my bag, it’s secretly my sustenance for the day.

Why not try blessing your small group with a home-made food treat. Wherever you meet, turn up some time with a tin of home-made whatevers, and enjoy the simple thrill of blessing others. Eating together breaks the ice, it helps people relax and feel welcome. To help get you started, Bob has kindly shared his EASY cake recipe with us! Click below to download a PDF containing the recipe and cooking instructions:

Bobs-EASY-Lemon-Drizzle-Cake.pdf (24 downloads)

Or you can find online anything you fancy making: Scones / cookies

And if that wasn’t enough… there is a hidden benefit to refreshing others, instructions can be found in Proverbs 11 v 25, and my own experience is that you can never out-give God. In honour of God if you give just a glass of water to someone you can expect a tidal wave of blessed refreshment in return.

This is my experience hospitality… let us know how you get on!

By Niki
A humble knitter of socks with an astonishing capacity for tea drinking, Niki grew up in Northern Ireland but finally found her true climate was in the South of England. She is a programme administrator on the postgraduate Counselling programmes at Waverley Abbey College.

The Easter story doesn’t stop at the resurrection

I wish I didn’t lose the passion and excitement about the resurrection so quickly after Easter. It’s not like I forget about the significance of the resurrection, but I don’t really think about it much after Easter Sunday.

The Easter weekend is filled with the promise of resurrection, sermons bursting with hope, Easter egg hunts, social gatherings making the most of the long weekend and if you’re lucky some sunshine to enjoy while you eat your hot cross buns. But, when I return to work thinking about how I don’t actually like crème eggs I find the excitement about Jesus’s resurrection begins to fade.

I think this is because I box the Easter message into a neat 4 days weekend package all too easily and don’t let the life-transforming, eternal consequences affect my daily life enough. The Easter message isn’t just a one off event that happened 2,000 and something years ago. It keeps affecting us from the first time we realise how incredible it is that Jesus died for us, to the things that we face daily through to our future. The Easter story doesn’t stop at the resurrection. The story just gets better and better. All the promises and prophecies that have been made about Jesus leading up to His death become more real as they are fulfilled in His resurrection.

40 days with Jesus is a small group resource that has helped me see Easter as more than Good Friday to Sunday. The book takes the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and invites you to meet the risen Jesus through the people who had face to face encounters with Him while He was still on earth. The encounters that people had with Jesus can teach us so much about our own relationship with Him.

Use 40 Days with Jesus in your small group to be inspired by the persistence and devotion of Mary who was first to witness the risen Jesus. Remind people in your small group who are doubting the resurrection, how incredible it is. Perhaps there are people in your small group who need a fresh revelation of Jesus and could use 40 Days with Jesus to invite Him into their lives again. Be encouraged by how Jesus restores us in our present struggles and also heals us from our past failures. Get motivated as you read about Jesus’ true purpose for us and be confident that Jesus is alive and transforming lives today.

40 Days with Jesus is more than just a book, there are small group Bible studies, videos to watch and even sermons if you want to get the whole church involved.

Find out more about 40 Days with Jesus.

 

By Emily Owen

Emily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true, she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.

Expanding Your Small Groups

One of the key issues for growing churches is: how do I find enough leaders for my small group ministry?

This is especially tough if the church has set the bar for being a small group leader high: ‘We are looking for people who have read through the Bible at least once, spend an hour a day in prayer and regularly lead people to Christ.’ (Yes I am exaggerating, but only slightly)

I want to say, that while it’s true that not everyone can lead a small group, and not everyone would want to, we don’t need to be afraid of the leadership word.

There’s a leader in all of us.

My thinking behind this statement comes from the biblical idea that leading is part of everyone’s DNA. In Genesis we read that every human is made in the image of God (Gen.) 1:27. And whilst scholars have no consensus on what exactly may be included within that, the context gives us a clue. In verse 28 God commands Adam and Eve to take care of the planet: ‘God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. (NIV)”

John Mark Comer wrote in his book, Garden City:

‘The word rule is radah in Hebrew. It can be translated “reign” or “have dominion.” It is king language. One Hebrew scholar translated it as “to actively partner with God in taking the world somewhere.”

What if God has placed a desire within all of us to lead?

The truth is that Jesus’ teaching was largely addressed to disciples, who became the leaders of the church. If we think Jesus’ teaching applies to us, and who wouldn’t, and if we are serious about following Jesus we have (perhaps unwittingly) signed up to learn how to be leaders!

Many of us are not leaders in the sense of calling people to ‘follow us’ somewhere. But if leadership is influence and we are all called to be a godly influence wherever we are – which for many of us in churches – could being a godly influence mean being a leader in a small group setting?

Some people may not be ready to lead: they have stuff to sort out, an ‘old life’ to disentangle from, and new godly habits to prioritise. But everyone has the prospect of being a faithful and godly influence. And those who have sensed God helping them reach a degree of maturity might well find a small group leadership role a thrilling place to serve God.

If your church is looking for new small group leaders, make sure you have the right criteria. Maybe your problem is not a lack of potential leaders, but with the criteria you are looking for?

For more on a biblical view of leading check out my latest book, The Leadership Road Less Travelled: leading as God intended you to (CWR).

Andy Peck, teaching team, CWR

Resources of the Month: Ezekiel and Habakkuk Cover to Cover Bible Studies


Cover to Cover Ezekiel

Dry bones can live!

The book of Ezekiel contains intriguing imagery including the famous vision of the valley of bones. Ezekiel was a priest called by God to deliver His messages to the Jewish people who were in exile in Babylon. God had not given up on His people and through Ezekiel, God still had plenty to say to them. God gives Ezekiel the task of confronting the rebellious Israelites and reminding them of their sins. However, the message is not all doom and gloom as God plans to rescue His people.

Claire Musters is an experienced writer who unpacks the book of Ezekiel for groups or individuals. A challenging study, over seven sessions, of an often neglected but fascinating book of the Bible with Bible readings, personal application and discussion questions.

 

 


Cover to Cover Habakkuk

How could God use wicked people to execute His purposes? Will sin go unpunished? Is it worth being faithful to God?

At a time when the Israelites were being ruled over by the Chaldeans, Habbakuk questions God about His divine plan. In this short book, Habbakuk raises issues such as sin, righteousness and faithfulness with God and in the end declares that he will still ‘be joyful in the God my Saviour’ (Habakkuk 3:18).

This is an opportunity, over seven sessions, for a personal or group study of age old questions and issues which are still being asked today. Includes Bible readings, personal application and discussion questions.

Steve Bishop is also the author of Cover to Cover Bible Study: Haggai.

Cover to Cover Habakkuk

 

 

More in the series

Cover to Cover Bible study guides are ideal for group or individual study. Experience the reality of Bible events in a fresh way, and gain a new depth to your Bible knowledge and relationship with God. Icebreakers, Bible readings, eye openers, discussion starters, personal application and ‘seeing Jesus’ sections make these Bible study guides a great small group resource.

Small group worship part one – the practical stuff

I believe in the verses from the Psalms ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord’ and at times my worship sounds like noise, but it is always joyful.

We’ve all been there, squashed into a room with someone who is learning the guitar and someone starts to sing, either off-key or too high for the blokes in the room. It soon dissolves into a mishmash of unheavenly, yet joyful, noise.

Here are some things I have learnt about small group worship over the last 35 years along with some hints and tips:

  • Keep the songs simple – the latest worship songs can be really wordy and there are so many great songs and choruses out there that whatever your churchmanship you can use – you can hardly go wrong with Majesty by Jack Hayward or All Hail the Lamb by Dave Bilborough just to mention a couple. Importantly these are songs that allow you to fix your eyes on Jesus.
  • Embrace Modern Technology – You can buy DVDs with a range of songs, both ancient and modern, that display the lyrics on the screen as you sing along.Online video sites like YouTube allow you to play worship songs through a computer and also free music players like Spotify where you can create a playlist where your chosen songs play one after another.

Hints & Tips:

The free version of Spotify does have annoying adverts that randomly interrupt!

Invest in a wireless speaker that connects to your phone if you want to get better volume!

Check with your small group host that their Wifi is up for the challenge as there’s nothing worse than your worship being interrupted by buffering!

Keep the sound levels at a reasonable level so that people aren’t embarrassed to join in with the songs. And print out song words if the songs are wordier. Also remember older members or people with hearing aids may have difficulties if there is music playing and people singing at the same time.

Remember the aim is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the one we adore rather than trying to sing higher or better than the person next to us. This also allows quieter people & the ones who don’t think they can keep a tune to feel they can worship without focusing in on them.

Lastly worshiping together should be uplifting and a great way to collectively focus on Jesus. It can remind us that God works through us when we join with our friends to honour Him.

 

By Anthony

Ant has been leading and attending small groups for 35 years. Next month he and his wife Catherine, who is a worship leader in their local church, will co-write a blog for us to share some more wisdom and experience on worshipping in small groups.

Living Faith: Invitations from the cross

Why you should read Krish Kandiah’s Lent Cover to Cover Study Guide – Living Faith: Invitations from the cross…

I like being comfortable. I think most people do. I like my bed to be comfortable; my shoes to be comfortable; my office temperature to be comfortable (though it rarely is); the exact positioning of the driver’s seat in my car to be comfortable. I also like my faith to be comfortable. And it’s recently occurred to me that maybe it’s not supposed to be.

Sure, a fruit of the Spirit is peace – and I like a lot of that, too. But if I’m honest, my relationship with God often seems to be something of a wrestling match – and I mean that in a good way – so if my faith has become comfortable, it quite possibly means that I’m not talking (or listening) to Him enough.

The Christian faith makes us uncomfortable for a number of reasons. It challenges so many of our neatly organised paradigms. The kingdom of God is often described as ‘upside down’ – the last being first and all that. But there’s also a challenge to die to self; a mandate to love the unloved; the realities of eternity, and they’re all part of the package.

Some of Christianity has become very clean and tidy. These days, the nativity story is more about fairylights, frankincense and donkeys than it is about refugees, squalor and the details of childbirth that we’d rather not consider while we’re singing ‘Silent Night’ for the four-hundredth time. We’ve cleaned it up a bit and made it sparkly, rather than celebrating the fact that God chose the most disgusting venue imaginable for His Son’s grand entrance into the world.

I think I’ve done a similar thing to Easter. I’d rather think about the daffodils, chocolate and upbeat Easter Sunday services than allow myself to take a minute to actually think about thorns, whips and nails. (On the flipside, I’m not sure it’s healthy to sit around and think about crucifixion all the live-long day.) But while reading Krish Kandiah’s Living Faith, I decided to position myself uncomfortably, just for a little while, and consider the reality of what it is that Jesus has done for me. (And I say ‘me’, not ‘us’, because that’s how personal it is.)

Exploring the invitations Jesus extended to us while hanging on the cross, Krish isn’t afraid to acknowledge the nitty-gritty and pass on the challenge without cleaning it up first. There’s something particularly upfront and raw about this book – and yet so gracious and gentle – that made me unbelievably thankful. Jesus suffered for me, and acknowledging that makes me uncomfortable. It kick-starts something inside me, and it’s a really good thing.

So pull up a chair and get comfortably uncomfortable this Lent.

 

About Living Faith: Invitations from the cross

This Lent, join Krish Kandiah as he invites you to travel back in time to stare intently at the cross of Jesus. Take time to explore the rich tapestry of meaning that surrounds this central and most defining moment in history. Find out more here.

About Rebecca Berry

Rebecca is Acting Lead Editor at CWR.

 

Can ‘fellowship’ be a verb?

Do you remember learning about verbs in school? You knew a word was a verb because it was a ‘doing word’. It usually ended with an ‘ing’ and it was an action. Those were the simplified grammar rules that were drilled into us. A verb: running, jumping, laughing.

When I think of fellowship, actively running around and getting involved isn’t what comes to mind. Yet, the answer is yes: fellowship can be a verb. It makes me question then, why are times of fellowship often associated with being quiet, a little bit dull and not very active at all? Are verbs not always actions, or have we got the wrong idea about fellowship?

The dictionary told me that, ‘any English noun can be verbed, but some are more resistant than others.’ This made me chuckle when I switched verb for fellowship… ‘any Christian can be fellowshipped, but some are more resistant than others.’ We all know someone, or perhaps are that person ourselves, who makes a beeline to the exit at the end of church when the leader is kindly inviting everyone to stay for coffee and fellowship.

I think we’ve got the wrong idea about fellowship. When you stop associating fellowship with shuffling round a church hall politely (but with determination) making your way to the biscuits before all the chocolate ones have gone; and read a bit on what the Bible has to say about it you realise that it is actually a wonderful gift from God. It’s the opportunity to be in relationship with Him and the invitation to join in with others in carrying out His Will.

I did some Bible searching and found out that fellowship starts with your own relationship with God, but then importantly it turns into doing things for God together. An article on Bible.org puts it brilliantly, fellowship does not stop with being an inner unity for it is primarily an action word! Koinonia is used nineteen times in the New Testament and in addition to being translated as “fellowship” it is also translated by the words, “contribution,” “sharing,” and “participation.” A close study of the usage of this word shows that action is always included in its meaning. Fellowship, you see, is not just being together, it is doing together!’ fellowship is a doing word! Fellowship is a verb!

Fellowship is more than hanging out, it’s actively doing God’s will together. You can stay behind at the end of church drinking tea and eating all the biscuits you can manage, but until you are actively seeking to do God’s Will with other people, you aren’t fellowshipping.

 

By Emily Owen

Emily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true, she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.