Small Group Central

The not-so small group

A couple of years ago, my husband and I found ourselves co-leading a small group with a couple of other guys. The group had started because we’d ‘multiplied’ out of another group, which had reached over 30 names on the books. Very quickly, the head-count of our new offshoot had reached 22.

Our church had been (and still is) experiencing exponential growth – something our leaders refer to as a ‘good problem’. It had been planted as a 24-7 Prayer ‘Boiler-Room’ community, built upon a foundation of a) prayer and b) community found in small groups (or ‘collectives’). Church happens in small groups. It’s where you build your community, deepen friendships, cultivate vulnerability, accountability and honesty – and this can’t always be done brilliantly when there’s 22 people crammed into someone’s living room.

We branched off with a new group in the April, with a comfortable figure of 8 people in total – which had grown to 13 within 3 weeks. Already, we could no longer fit into my flat, and had to look to others to host us.

This taught us some very valuable lessons in hospitality. Can you host in someone else’s home? Can you lead on someone else’s turf? I now prefer to view hospitality as making someone feel welcome; accepted; involved; at home; in whatever space you are in – and now, if you invite me round your house, I’ll probably put the kettle on for you. (If you lead a small group and find yourself hosting every single week, I would strongly recommend you inviting others to open up their homes. In my experience, most people love to be asked.)
A couple in our group (now great friends) have a barn attached to their house that, having stood near-derelict for some years, they have recently converted into a beautiful meeting space – and we moved right in! Conversation went on for hours. We laughed a lot. We prayed a lot. We ate an unholy amount of chocolate hobnobs.

By September, we had 28 names to our group, and carried on in denial for as long as possible. Boy, did we love that group. People grew in friendship and in faith (and all those other clichés), and the dynamic was great… But was everyone being heard? Was everyone being looked after? Were the less extroverted people being drowned out by other voices? I felt challenged that being comfortable in my friendships with these people was taking priority over taking things in the direction that God wanted.

We’d had our next leaders lined up for months, but honestly, I moaned at God. It’s funny – you pray for church growth, but don’t actually think about what that will look like for your compact, convenient friendship groups. We expect blessing to come without any personal cost (and amazingly, it often does). My husband and I felt really invested in our collective, and didn’t want to do what felt like ripping it apart. God had to very gently tell us to get out of the way. We abandoned our nostalgia and got over ourselves. This is what we had prayed for.

Throughout the whole process I panicked a bit; I suddenly couldn’t remember how to build and grow a small group, and was worried that someone would eventually notice that we wing it (by the grace of God), week after week. But then I realised I’d never built and grown a small group. We’d only ever met up with some friends every week, got the hobnobs in, prayed, and God had done the rest. So we’re doing some more of that – and already, we’re becoming a not-so-small group.

 

About Rebecca Berry

‘Bex’ is part of the editorial team at CWR. She goes to Emmaus Rd church in Guildford and has led a small group with her husband, Chris, for three years. She loves pecan pie and would love to write her own book one day.

 

Coming alongside others in small groups

I saw an advert for a church recently that mentioned warm fellowship – it was definitely intended to be an incentive to draw people in. I don’t think the offer of ‘fellowship’ is really that enticing for many people … what is fellowship other than a hurried cup of coffee after a church service, before everyone rushes home to tend to roasting potatoes?

In Acts, Luke writes about how the Early Church made fellowship a priority.

‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ (Acts 2:42)

Why is fellowship important?

Without getting too deep into a lesson in ancient Greek, there’s a word used in the New Testament that means fellowship, which is koinonia. Two main ideas stem from it: ‘to share together, take part together’, and ‘to share with’, the act of giving to others. But how do we effectively share with one another?

I think that small groups are essential for developing fellowship in a church. To share with and care for one another. Yet it’s often easier said than done, which is why teaching found in series such as Paraclesis: Journeying Together is so important. To learn how to journey with someone, to have real, effective and honest fellowship with one another, just as God calls us to do:

‘He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.’ (2 Corinthians 1:4, The Message)

The main premise of Paraclesis: Journeying Together is for people to share what they have learnt through their life experiences with other people, in order to help them through the challenges they are facing.

Paraclesis: Journeying Together sets up churches and small groups to experience and practice true fellowship with teaching, resources and creative ideas. It teaches us to come alongside one another instead of just standing side-by-side each other at the coffee morning.

For more information, visit www.paraclesis.org.uk

About Emily Owen

Emily Bio Pic smEmily 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.

What do you bring to your small group?

‘Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these prophets.”

One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild gourd plant and picked as many of its gourds as his garment could hold. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no-one knew what they were. The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.

Elisha said, “Get some flour.” He put it into the pot and said, “Serve it to the people to eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.

A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe corn, along with some ears of new corn. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said.

“How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked.

But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the LORD says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’” Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD.’

2 Kings 4:38–44

 

 

Two curious stories. Two stories about ravenously hungry people being fed by miracles from God. Perhaps that is all there is to them: stories that proved what a great prophet Elisha was. Personally I can’t help feeling there is more to them than that!

Here are three guys who made a contribution. They put something in.

The first man put poisonous weeds into a pot of stew. It wasn’t intentional. It was ignorance and perhaps carelessness. But the result was a disaster; you can see those hungry young students pulling faces as they tried to spoon up the bitter concoction. Ugh, revolting, ‘there is death in the pot!’

Have you noticed that in group situations there are usually characters who have the unfortunate knack of making problems even worse by what they put in? Negative things, bitter things, reproachful things. ‘I told you this would happen!’ ‘Nobody ever listens to me!’ ‘A fine mess you’ve made of things, haven’t you!’ By the time they’ve said their bit everything seems worse than it was before.

Then there was a man who made a really helpful contribution. This was another occasion when there wasn’t enough to eat, and he turned up with twenty bread rolls. This was a kind and generous action but the trouble was that there were a hundred hungry men to feed. This man did the right thing though. He did what he could, even if it wasn’t going to solve the problem. This is important. Do what you can, give what you can, so long as what you are putting in is good. Whether you share words, deeds, gifts or prayers. Don’t hold back, thinking, ‘What’s the use?’ Give what you can even though it seems pitifully inadequate.

The third man was Elisha. His contribution was faith. He had a special quality of faith that put him in touch with God’s methods and God’s timing. His faith turned the bad broth into appetizing stew. His faith multiplied the bread to feed a hundred hungry men. When people are around who have the quality of faith it is surprising how situations can change. You probably feel that you don’t have as much faith as Elisha had, and you may be right. But just remember that you have the same God!

 

About Norman Moss

Norman and Margaret Moss commenced ministry together in 1957. After 9 years in Chiswick, they pastored a church in Wimbledon for 31 years, and since then have been widely engaged in travelling ministry. Margaret contributed to the Dictionary of Christian Ethics (IVP) and Norman has written several children’s books. Both have wide experience with small groups.

Welcome to Small Group Central…

Small groups, cell groups, life groups – whatever you may call them – provide us with the amazing opportunity to live out our faith in community with one another and to reach out to the wider community around us.

Here at CWR, because we believe these groups are really important, we have created Small Group Central. It’s a one-stop shop for everyone involved with small groups to get the most out of the time you spend together.

Things you can do

1. Sign up to the mailing list. It’s completely free and we’ll keep you up to date with all the latest news and resources from Small Group Central including special offers from the Small Group Central shop. You can sign up here.

2. Get reading. We’ll be uploading fresh new content on a regular basis. There are blogs to read, videos to watch, suggestions and ideas for you and your small group to try out, and articles for those involved in leadership.

3. Tell your friends. And your small group, your church family, and pretty much everyone you know! We want as many people as possible to find out about Small Group Central… so go forth and spread the news!

4. Pick up some new resources. Looking for ideas as to what to study with your small group? Just visit the Small Group Central shop and browse a whole range of resources. Whether you’re looking to go deeper as a leader or looking for a study guide for the whole group you’ll be able to find something to read!