I have always had a heart for small group ministry. Corporate worship is vitally important and I’m not saying you should substitute corporate worship for a small group, frankly that would be like working out, but then not eating right. Yea, small groups can be a workout, but the way we truly feed on the Word and of course the Body and Blood of Jesus is done in corporate worship.
In the most recent issue of Christian Counseling Today Jennifer Cisney Ellers wrote a great article condensing the benefits of small groups. “We, as Christian caregivers, cannot ‘heal’ anyone, but we can create an environment and opportunity for individuals to encounter Christ in real and personal ways. We can provide people with the chance to be ‘Christlike’ in our interactions with each other and model agape love. I believe that small groups offer one of the most profound opportunities for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts and lives of Christians.” Think of it as taking what you receive from God in worship and then applying it in a more open forum with everyone in the group. At some point everyone in that group, you included, are going to need that “agape” love from others in the group. Seriously, where else do you think you are going to get that anywhere else in the world?
Please read the following with an open-mind, small groups really are so important. Guys, you need a group where you can be encouraged, strengthened, mentored. Too many guys think that they can handle everything on their own, despite the fact they’ve never had to deal with it, no one’s ever given them any information or guidance and, big guy, if you really are serious about your family, being a great husband and father, doesn’t your wife and children need your best effort? Part of that should be getting help and guidance from other Christian men. Right? We are pulling together a men’s group at First St Johns, we will need a lot of help to get going, so please be one of those guys who steps up if you live in the York, Pa. area. Otherwise find a good group in your area or better yet, get together with your pastor and let him know what you’d like to do. We already have a great women’s group at First St Johns, and we have other groups like “Discipling”, “Grief Share”, Employment Support, Prayer Group, Sunday Bible Study, so if you are local here, please don’t hesitate to be a part of great groups.
Jennifer Ellers goes on to enumerate the benefits of small groups:
- Universality: Small groups reinforce the sense that we are connected to others through common experiences and shared feelings. When others describe emotions similar to what another member is going through, their sense of isolation is diminished and they experience connection.
- Altruism: Small groups provide the opportunity for members to share themselves and help others. Many studies have shown the power of offering assistance to others to improve self-esteem.
- Instillation of hope: When people see others moving through difficult situations and healing, they believe it is possible for them as well.
- Imparting information: People in small groups share practical information about what has been helpful or harmful to them. Group members have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others.
- Development of social skills or ‘socializing techniques’: Group members can learn and practice social and interpersonal skills in the safe and supervised environment of the group. They can learn how their actions and interactions are perceived by others and discover new ways of interacting when their current behaviors are not getting the desired outcome.
- intimate behavior: Groups offer modeling, by leaders and other group members, of critical social skills – such as sharing feelings, handling criticism or conflict and offering support.
- Cohesiveness: One of the most important healing factors in any small group experience is for group members to experience a sense of cohesiveness or belonging. This happens when members feel acceptance and validation.
- Existential factors: Small groups can help members see a ‘big picture’ of life in terms of meaning and purpose.
- Catharsis: Groups provide a safe atmosphere to let out deep emotions and painful experiences. Expressing emotions in front of others and having those feelings validated decreases levels of stress, tension and pain.
- Interpersonal learning and self-understanding: Small group members may have a clearer view and the ability to learn when they see themselves in others or reflect how others see them. These two factors overlap and interact, but also provide an opportunity for increased self-awareness for all group members. (Jennifer Cisney Ellers Christian Counseling Today Vol 20 No 4 pp 20-21)
These are the benefits to a small group. It’s sort of a workplace mantra to “not reinvent the wheel”, point taken in the work world. Why wouldn’t we benefit from the experiences of mature Christians in their interpersonal relations? Bear in mind that small groups need time to grow in a lot of ways; trust, cohesiveness, maturity, etc. If you do make a commitment to a group do it with the intent that you will give as much as get, that you want to be a better Christian disciple as well as Christian spouse, parent, child, employee, etc.
God lives in community, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we live in community with the Trinitarian God, and we live in community with the Body of Christ, our church, our brothers and sisters in Jesus. A body cannot live in isolation from other parts of the body, to be strong, healthy Christians. To be part of a strong, healthy church we need to be part of a Christian group where we can grow and where we can help brothers and sisters in Jesus to grow.
Please check out some of the groups at First St Johns, if you have an idea please let me know. Believe me, I will go to great extents to do whatever I can to help build strong Christian brothers and sisters to be part of strong groups of Christians. But make a commitment to be a part of a Christian small group and grow as a mature Christian disciple.