How to be a Good Small Group Member
Our desire for Small Groups at Christ Community Church is that they will provide opportunities for us to build relationships and pursue discipleship together for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. As we seek to accomplish this worthy goal, there are some things it will be helpful to practice, and some things it will be helpful to avoid, in order that we may all participate in a way that sows peace and unity rather than discord and division.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by pursuing relationships.
Small Groups at CCC are designed to provide a place and context in which relationships and community can be built within our church family. They are not a substitute for relationships. There are comments, corrections, confrontations, confessions and confidences that are appropriate to intimate relationships and not to the Small Group meeting. We should be aiming to build the kinds of relationships in which we can be transparent and open, not expecting the Small Group to function in place of those relationships.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by pursuing the Word.
Small Groups at CCC pursue discipleship first and foremost by being shaped by God’s Word, reflecting over its meaning for our lives and encouraging one another to believe and apply it. If we will be good Small Group members we must be faithful to attend Sunday worship and be fed by Scripture as it is given throughout the worship service.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by reflecting over the sermon questions.
A significant portion of the Small Group’s time will be dedicated to discussing the questions from previous weeks’ sermons. We should come to Small Group meetings ready to engage the group with our own answers and reflections upon how to apply the Word, ready to hear from and be encouraged by other group members, and ready to pray for the Lord’s help to live in light of what he is teaching us.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by being aware of the needful balance between speaking and listening.
The Small Group meeting is not the place merely to hear other people talk and never participate yourself. How will the group benefit from your experience if you never share? How will you learn if you never ask questions? Nor is the Small Group meeting the place for lengthy monologues about obscure topics. How will you benefit from the encouragement of your brothers and sisters in the faith if you never give them a chance to speak? How will the truths of the gospel get a fair showing to those in the group if unnecessary, contentious subjects are constantly being raised?
➢ Be a good Small Group member by remembering that all material gifts are from the Lord.
Scripture reminds us that, whether rich or poor, all that we have is from the Lord and that, if we have Jesus, we are all incomparably rich in God (James 1:9-11). We can be perfectly happy and content in God’s wisdom, who gives to each of us all that we need to be faithful servants (Matt. 25:14-30). Beware therefore, of the twin evils of an envious or superior attitude towards other members of your Small Group based on the kind of home they have, or their occupation, or any other thing that the world uses to measure a person’s value or success. If you visit a group member’s home, and what they have seems luxurious to you, don’t ask embarrassing questions like, “how much money do you make?” Or, “how can you afford this on your salary?” Likewise, if you visit a group member’s home, and what they have seems humble to you, don’t make patronizing statements or offer to help them out in ways for which they haven’t asked. Remember that a day is coming when the first will be last, and the last will be first. Aim to be rich on that day by being humble in this one.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by serving rather than criticizing.
The world is full of critics but short of servants. Jesus calls us to a different way (John 13:12-17). Don’t critique the cleanliness state of the host family’s home. Don’t make disparaging remarks like, “when was the last time y’all dusted in here?” Hosting a Small Group is hard work. Rather than criticize, offer to share the burden by opening your own home to the group on occasion. Likewise, aim to leave the host family’s home as good or better than you found it. Help to clean away trash or dishes left over from refreshments. Help to move furniture to back to its proper place. If the group has childcare, help to clean up after the children.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by being open to new relationships.
One of our hopes for the Small Groups is that they will be a place where we can begin to build closer relationships among each other. As these relationships grow and deepen, it will be tempting to want to keep the group to the same people. However, the goal is not just for relationships to be formed but also for discipleship to grow. This means that we should be willing both to welcome new people into our groups and to see good friends leave to plant new groups. Remember, the Small Group is not a substitute for relationship. Seek to maintain relationships in life shared outside the Small Group meeting time and to develop new relationships as new people join your group.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by recognizing your need for the whole body of Christ.
One of the analogies Scripture uses for the church is that of a human body (1 Cor. 12:12-31). We should be just as thankful for each member of the church as we are for each part of our physical bodies; and we should be just as loathe to cut ourselves off from another member of the church as we would be to cut off a part of our physical bodies. As Small Groups grow, it will be tempting to form cliques and, perhaps unintentionally, make others feel unwelcome to join our circle of friends. While we will connect with certain people more deeply than others—based on the way each of us is wired, mutual interests, etc.—and while this is not wrong in itself, we also need to be aware of our need for the gifts and input of people who may be very different from us, or be in a different stage of life. Remember, we are not on mission just to make friends, but disciples. Pursue discipleship with the various people God has put into your life and church family.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by being a friend of little children rather than annoyed by them.
Remember the example of Jesus, who welcomed little children to Himself (Luke 19:13-15). Differences in parenting styles among the group are one potential area for conflict early on. Don’t become annoyed or exasperated by them. Consider how our heavenly Father is patient with us, despite our merely better disguised temper-tantrums and bad attitudes.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by remembering that not all lawful things build up.
There are some things in Christ we are free to do, but that may cause another brother or sister to stumble (Romans 14:1-4). Don’t use your freedom in Christ to browbeat or cause another brother or sister to stumble. Consider how much more glorifying to God it is to pursue unity in Christ by not seeking our good, but the good of our neighbor (1 Cor. 10:23-24). Don’t become exasperated by weaker brothers and sisters, help them grow towards maturity in Christ and seek it for yourself.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by being aware of its limits.
Remember, the Small Group is not a substitute for relationship. The Small Group meeting is not the place to discuss the details of our personal struggles with sin. While we want to be honest about ourselves and transparent about the fact that we constantly fail to live in the holiness that we are redeemed into, the Small Group cannot provide the counsel, correction or accountability that a more intimate relationship can. Seek out relationships where you can be fully known, don’t use the Small Group as a shortcut.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by persevering through conflict.
If we are pursuing discipleship meaningfully and in community, conflict will inevitably arise as our brokenness is brought to the light. While this is a sad reality of life this side of glory, it is also a hopeful one because it gives us an opportunity to participate in the transformation that our gracious Father is working in all of us, making us more and more into the holy sons and daughters that we were created to be. The presence of conflict in a Small Group doesn’t mean that the group has failed in some way. The true success of a group hinges on what it does when conflict arises. Do we pursue forgiveness and reconciliation as the fitting fruit of the reconciliation we have received from God by grace through faith? Or do we become bitter and wall ourselves off from certain people as the rotten fruit of bitter jealously and selfish ambition?
➢ Be a good Small Group member by pursuing the agenda of the King, not your own.
Often we come to God’s Word wanting more answers than we find. We want an explanation for this or that tragedy, or we want a manual of rules that tells us how to get by better in this world. Often this attitude betrays an underlying desire that God get behind our agenda and provide the necessary power to make our dreams a reality. We can sometimes find ourselves pursuing the hope of the tower of Babel for a safe and secure life instead of stepping out into the mission of God in faith. Instead, seek God’s agenda with your Small Group by avoiding debates about the latest peripheral theological, political or cultural controversy. Seek to be shaped by the story of redemption and restoration God is working throughout the world, trusting in His sovereign control over all things. While secondary issues are sometimes important, and discussion about them has a place, the Small Group meeting is not it.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by being flexible.
No Small Group will remain the same as it was when it began. Different seasons of life bring new challenges, new schedules, and new people. Be ok with this. It may be that, after a time, the original group Facilitator may need a break and another takes their place. It may be that, after a time, the folks hosting the group need a break and another host family takes their place. New people will join the group, and old friends will leave. The meeting time may eventually need to be adjusted, or the day of the week the group meets on may need to be changed. While structure is important, and while we should not be casual in our commitments or planning, we should also not begrudge the occasional changes that will inevitably come our way.
➢ Be a good Small Group member by doing all things for God’s glory.
We can hardly improve on John Calvin’s wise words: “It is not very sound theology to confine a man’s thoughts so much to himself, and not to set before him, as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God. For we are born first of all for God, and not for ourselves.” Make your aim for Small Group participation that you will love Jesus more, and His people more, than you did at the start. This will help to keep God’s glory at the center rather than our own felt needs, intellectual interests, or relational conflicts. Remember, these are important aspects of our humanity that God promises to redeem and restore to the praise of His glorious grace. Keep Him at the center, and other things will follow (Matt. 6:33).
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.