Thursday, March 28, 2019

When Awkward Silence Strikes

Whether it’s in your current small group or in a small group that you’ve led in the past, it will inevitably occur…that awkward moment of silence. Individuals in the circle will stare at the ground after taking a quick glance around the group to see if anyone is about to speak up. Extroverted individuals who find silence uncomfortable may even start to shift in their seats in a state of uneasiness. As a leader, I’ve always wondered, how long do I let the silence last? Did I ask a question that was wrong to ask? Should I ask another question to keep the conversation flowing? Or do I hold my ground and let the question stew a bit to see who steps up? Naturally each conversation is different, and each group makeup will vary. Nevertheless, perhaps we can explore a few scenarios:

Is the group-time just getting started?
If the group time is just beginning, silence may be an indication of something going on outside of the group that is causing anxiety to one or more of the group members’ lives. In a scenario like this, it may be beneficial to pause for a moment and ask open-ended questions to see how everyone is doing. I’ve had moments where the night’s scheduled content was placed secondary to the immediate needs of the group. After some time in prayer, the group would eventually come to a point where everyone felt ready to dive into that evening’s study. After all, whether we’re a member of a Bible study or a fellowship-type of group, we’re still life groups, and getting together as a community allows us to share the challenges and joys of life together.

Was the question presented correctly?
Sometimes the brain moves faster than the words coming out (I know I am notorious for this!). After years of leading small groups, I can say there were numerous times when I needed to pause and wonder if what I just said made sense to the group. Sometimes simply asking a question like “I’m not sure if what I said just made sense…” or “Might you know what I mean?” allows you to place yourself in a position of openness as a facilitator of the conversation and allows for group members to ask clarifying questions to what you are proposing.

Is the group going too fast?
There are Spirit-led moments when a group takes a question and runs with it, bouncing off one another and going deeper without the leader’s prompting. However, other times there may be groups where its members are not so eager to be vulnerable. In such groups, gauging the members’ willingness to stay in the deep-end may be beneficial. On tough topics, receiving silence after asking too many deep-cutting questions back-to-back may be an indication that the group has not been able to fully process what was explored beforehand. In cases like this, the group may be telling the leader that they may not be ready yet to venture into another challenging conversation and it may help to lighten the conversation a bit with a more lighthearted topic.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Small Group Preparedness

Books and discussion guides are an excellent method of generating content and keeping the group’s progress on track throughout the span of the semester. For groups that may not have the discussion materials prepared beforehand (or for those looking for more ideas), here might be a few principles to utilize to your next group meeting’s content:

Preparedness provides direction…
Proverbs 16:1-3: “To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”
Although the Holy Spirit moves freely and should not be restricted by our agenda, we also would do a disservice to our group members by not coming to the table prepared enough. By reading through and praying over the text beforehand, we leaders are able to jot down discussion questions and fresh observations to share with the group. If the Holy Spirit shifts the conversation in a different direction slightly from what was prepared, that’s ok! But just as a nature tourist guide can enjoy the view and discover new things along with their group, they first must know the path ahead so that they can properly guide their group through the trail and make it out without getting lost in the thicket.

Preparedness helps us listen better…
Proverbs 13:4 “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”
By having content prepared in advance, we are able to have more opportunity to listen to the Spirit’s direction. Our preparedness does not necessarily give more freedom to an all-powerful God, however it will position us small group leaders to better hear the direction of the Holy Spirit. Rushing the preparation phase or pulling things together in a last-minute fashion may run the risk of neglecting time for prayer. I know from personal experience, content that I had prayed over and reviewed throughout the week leading up to the day always felt like it was more polished and better suited to the group than the days that I quickly pulled things together.

Remember, proper prior planning prevents poor performance! May the Lord richly bless the time that your groups are coming together for fellowship and community.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Small Group Purpose

Small groups are an incredible way to make a larger church feel intimate and connected. Last week we reviewed how small groups provide a place to connect, a place to grow, and a place to protect and support. Strategically speaking, here are a few additional purposes that small groups provide for the church.
  • Future church leaders can be identified, can be mentored, and can be given future opportunities to become involved themselves.
  • Small groups help “Close the back door” of the church and encourage those attending the church to stay connected.
  • Small groups multiply the ministry-reach of the church staff. As a church grows more and more, its staff’s ability to minister to individual members becomes more challenging. Because of this, small groups allow for the church to care for and minister to more individuals through the care and empowerment of its small group leaders.
  • Small groups help build up and sustain a multi-generational ministry. Of course not every small group’s purpose is meant to be multi-generational, but generally speaking, a church’s small groups provide many opportunities for this to occur. It is here where we can see David’s psalm of praise where “one generation shall praise [God’s] works to another,” allowing His dominion to “endure throughout all generations” (Psalms 145:4, 13).

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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Small Groups Provide

Did you know that Small Groups offer some of the very best opportunities to connect the community? Small Groups can provide:

A place to connect…
1 Cor 9:22 “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
Small groups provide the opportunity for individuals of similar interest to come together and relate to one another. As small group leaders, we naturally incorporate Paul’s teaching from 1 Corinthians 9:22 when we utilize our spiritual gifts to build bridges between our fellow group members. By opening the door into the life of our church family, others can personally experience the love and strength of a biblical community.

A place to protect and support…
1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Small groups provide a place where we can feel safe. They provide opportunities for us to serve one another and care for one another. Although someone may be able to slip out of a large Sunday service without being noticed, a small group allows for its members to know each other by name and look forward to seeing one another. Inviting someone into a small group at your church ensures that they can be prayed for by their fellow group members and group leader.

A place to grow…
Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Small groups provide an environment where we can be equipped to become more like Jesus. They foster an atmosphere that allows for both vulnerability and accountability to help us live a faith-filled life. Since every individual is created with a God-given potential to make a difference, small groups can help its members discover who they are in Christ and how they can serve the Kingdom of God.

I'm excited to kickstart this block back up again! It will have a focus on small groups and youth ministry. Won't you join me for the journey by subscribing? Please share this post if you felt this was a blessing to your ministry.

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