Just because someone wanders into one of our Small Groups doesn’t mean they already have a relationship with Christ. Let that sink in a minute.
Why would we assume that? Well, we think that people who are committed to Christ desire fellowship and Bible study, and that’s true. But we can’t assume that people who show up have already found a relationship with Christ. Some people are genuinely seeking something more in life and think that being in a Small Group and finding friendships with other people might be the answer. I hope it is the answer if they find more than they were searching for--ultimately finding Christ.
Within the last year, one of our Small Group Leaders told me about how the group was taking turns sharing their spiritual stories to help them get to know one another. One of the group members told him privately, “I don’t think I have a spiritual story.” Needless to say, that opened up the door for some great conversation between the group member and the leader.
Years ago, I decided that I’d have a private spiritual conversation with everyone who visited my Small Group. Note that this practice is beneficial to a leader in knowing his audience! At the time, Liz and I were leading a young singles group. We made an appointment with a young lady in her home. I didn’t have a slick line to start the spiritual part of the conversation, but after getting to know all the other life details, I just said, “Hey, we love to know the spiritual background of everyone who visits our group. What is your spiritual background”? There was a long silence, and then tears were streaming down her face. Okay, to be honest, I panicked at this point and didn’t know where this conversation was about to go.
When she had composure, she shared, “I feel cheated in life. Everyone else has a spiritual background, but I don’t. My parents didn’t take me to church. Now I want to know God, but I don’t know where to start.”
Needless to say, I was very relieved. I knew how to proceed from that point. That night we helped her take her next steps toward God and follow Him through faith in Christ.
So, what does this mean for us? Again, don’t assume. When people show up in your group, let that be an opportunity for some private conversations that serve two purposes. For one, it gives the relationship and jumpstart. Secondly, it provides the opportunity for a spiritual conversation. Even if they are a believer, it’s a chance to discover where they are.
I also want to encourage you to allow the gospel to saturate your group meetings. We can talk about the deeper parts of what it means to walk with Christ, but never leave behind discussions about the starting place. If you think about it, if we are really walking with Christ in a significant way, we are helping others take those first steps, so the conversation is always relevant.
One way to do that is to teach evangelism, equipping your group member to share the gospel. We offer the Gospel Conversations Workshop a few times a year if you need to be equipped. We encourage you to teach people how to start conversations, share their story, weave in Bible stories to conversations, and how to lead people across the threshold of walking with Christ personally using the Three Circles. And of course, we need to equip people to disciple others. If we don’t do these things, we risk creating a consumeristic Small Group where people aren’t equipped, just fed. It’s easy to slip into that.
We’re glad to provide people to come lead some of those aspects in your Small Group. Please consider giving an entire meeting to that soon. After that, why not select the first meeting each month for a three to five-minute equipping reminder. Remember, our end goal is to make disciples, not just teach the Word.