Without rattling off a specific purpose statement, what is the function of a small group? (A small group purpose statement can be a valuable asset, but for just a moment, think in the most basic and simplest of terms.) How do you describe why your small group exists?
Small groups are one of the greatest environments for helping people grow spiritually. The goal of a small group leader should be to help participants take practical steps forward, no matter where each person is at on their spiritual journey (more on that HERE). But consider the core engine that drives the small group along this journey…
Discipleship Through Community
From week to week, the core engine that drives the group is made of two important parts that work together in sync: Discipleship and Community. These two elements are essential for building strength, energy, and focus for the mission Jesus gave us. Yes, there are other key elements that Jesus instructed His church to pursue together (worship, serving, etc.); but a small group setting is where Discipleship and Community thrive best. (Just like a larger gathering of the church is a setting where preaching and corporate worship thrive best.)
Think of a small group as “Discipleship through Community.” More specifically, a small group is a place where people are learning to follow Jesus in community with other believers. Discipleship and Community work together in harmony. Discipleship helps people understand the why’s and how’s of following Jesus. Without it, the believer is wandering without direction. Community provides a platform for mutual support, instruction, and encouragement. Without it, the believer is going it alone.
Don’t mistake the engine for the goal
Discipleship and community are important, and they help us reach the goal – but are not the goals in and of themselves. Long-term spiritual growth is the goal. When a person (or church) starts to pursue Bible study, fellowship, or anything else as the goal, they will likely end up veering off course. Just consider the Pharisees… they studied deeply through the scriptures, and worked hard to apply every detail, but they ended up far from Jesus. (HERE is some practical advice to avoid that mistake.)
What is real Discipleship? What is real Community?
Community and Discipleship each deserve their own share of attention, so they are addressed specifically in the next two posts.