We tend to think about spiritual gifts on an individual level, but it can’t stop there. Groups offer the best environments for discovering how God has graced each one and they’re ideal outlets for believers to exercise their gifts together. The biblical community that grows in groups inspires Christ-followers to be faithful and bold in using what the Lord has deposited in them to advance His Kingdom.
A spiritual gift is a special enablement that God gives to each believer, according to His grace, to build up the Body of Christ (Rom 12:6–8). Spiritual gifts enable us to do things with greater spiritual effectiveness because we’re not operating by our strength alone. The Lord has already called us and empowered us by the Holy Spirit to share them by serving others.
God’s power flows to and through a group in life-changing ways when spiritual gifts are being used in concert together. As a group leader, you want to be sensitive to the supernatural composition of your group so as you think about how to grow and serve together, begin by asking WHO is in your group rather than WHAT you should be doing. You can facilitate the following three conversation to help in this discovery process.
(This first conversation can be done in one or two sittings.)
Spiritual gifts help believers discover their unique capacity to serve God and effectively advance His purposes in this world. The more we decipher our gifts the better we discern our calling.
The collective gifts of all the group members create a roadmap revealing how the group can best experience God’s power and be most effective on mission together. They also help group leaders empower each one to share the responsibilities for the group and turn its energy and focus outward, keeping it healthy.
These questions can be used to help engage the group in a conversation on how to leverage spiritual gifts to build community within the group and strengthen its impact:
The goal is to empower each group member to connect their gift-mix to a group practice that will express your church’s values. Consequently, biblical community will grow and your group members will be empowered to live out your church’s mission together. Empowerment is helping believers do what God has created and commissioned them to do. It is unveiling who they are in Christ and helping them to see themselves the way their Heavenly Father sees them: As His very own children.
Think of yourself as a synergist who is administrating gift deployment so that people are built up and God’s purposes are advanced. One way you can empower your group members is to ask each one to champion an area of your group life that’s in keeping with their gift-mix by, which you can approach by…
As someone is faithful to use their God-given spiritual gifts to build up your group and church, they can be entrusted with a greater sense of stewardship for an area of your group life. This will empower them in ministry, lift the load of responsibility you’re carrying, multiply leadership development, and grow biblical community, which is transformational for everyone.
One of the greatest preventable mistakes made by group leaders is when they try to carry too much – the “I’ll just do it myself” syndrome. If we follow the examples of Jesus and the Apostle Paul, we will purposefully develop others as they serve alongside us (Luke 6:12–13; 2 Timothy 2:2).
Your health and balance as a leader – not to mention the overall health of the group – is dependent on others who will serve alongside you. Having someone to co-lead your group will enhance how you connect with the diversity of people circled up with you. Your co-leader will strengthen how people are cared for in your group and can provide feedback that you would not have otherwise received (Proverbs 27:17). The impact of your leadership will be increased exponentially with the support of one or more co-leaders.
We can find guidance on how to select co-leaders in Luke 6:12-13: “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.” In this passage, Jesus gives us a four-step process for choosing a co-leader:
In the process of selecting your co-leader, let them know how you’ll work with them, what it looks like and what they can expect. Start with the end in mind and share a vision for how their leadership will help grow biblical community. Ultimately, experienced co-leaders multiply options for handling numerical growth so new groups can branch out and more people can connect to Christ and the community of His Church.
Groups that have more members taking on more responsibilities are better at making disciples who grow deep and impact wide. Now let’s turn our attention to some tips and tactics for developing your co-leader:
It is never too early to appoint co-leaders! The Apostle Paul knew this. He usually had dozens of people around him who were friends and “fellow-workers” (Philemon 1:24). Several from his missionary band led house churches that were instrumental with the initial spread of the Gospel! Then and now, the multiplication of healthy leaders and groups depend on the kind of missional partnership that is forged with co-leaders (Philippians 1:3-6).
Intentional investments made over time into developing group leaders will empower them to create healthy environments where biblical community will grow. This requires meaningful touch-points in different ways with enough frequency that leaders feel known, loved, included, and challenged so they continue learning and growing.
Different leaders need different kinds of care. This care will look different for each leader depending on whether they are new or experienced in leading groups. There are repeatable investment rhythms you can easily put into motion that will build the relationships necessary for healthy leadership development. A group leader will fall somewhere on the spectrum of new to experienced, and for simplicity, we will only look at these two general categories:
* Weekly frequency during their initial training & up through their first study
The concept of “span of care” applies as the scale of your group leadership grows. For example, let’s say you have eight group leaders. You’ve built relationships with them over time and have been able to provide the necessary care, but you want to do more. About this time, four new leaders emerge out of these groups who are eager to launch their own groups.
You quickly realize that you can’t maintain the same level of care with your first wave of leaders and also pour into the next wave. So you select one of your most capable and available leaders to function like a “coach” and invest into half of your experienced leaders (4) and half of the new leaders (2). Instead of your span of care becoming unmanageable at twelve, you equally divide the care of the whole group leadership between you and your new coach resulting in a 1:6 span of care.
Keep in mind that span of care is an elastic concept in practice. For example, coaches with greater margin and leadership competency can care for a greater number of leaders. The biggest factor can also be the greatest unknown, which is what level of care leaders will ultimately need because even experienced leaders face personal crises and challenges in their group life that will require greater investment.
Occasionally, you and your coaches should plan to substitute an in-person touch-point with a half-day retreat or conference that will develop your leadership community. Top-notch content is on-demand that you can use anytime, anywhere. Adding some variety into how you invest in your leaders will help guard against your investment rhythms turning into ruts.
The table above is meant to serve as a rule of thumb to help you determine what healthy investment rhythms should look like in your church considering the maturity and needs of your group leadership. It’s also important to remember that YOU need investment too! Point leaders like yourself are all around you and you can glean so many useful ideas and resources by joining a huddle through www.smallgroupnetwork.com.
A church’s purposes or values usually reflect the practices they want to encourage in the lives of their members. If your recommended group format is structured around your church’s purposes, you will be more effective at weaving these essential spiritual practices into your group life. This is critical since the relational circles of groups create the community that transforms lives and enables your church to be transformational in its own community. This post examines four more spiritual practices that necessitate spiritual relationships and help believers to be faithful and fruitful in their walk with Jesus.
Growth Tip: Bring bread and beverage to your group, open by reading from 1 Cor 11:23-26, distribute the elements, give thanks for Christ’s sacrifice explaining what the elements represent, provide a time of quiet reflection, and close with a brief prayer of thanksgiving. Practicing communion in your group conveys how all believers are ministers and confers a fresh sense of authority in how your members minister to one another. It strengthens your group’s bond and deepens the way your group worships together.
Growth Tip: The group leader sets the pace for vulnerability in the group. Vulnerability is a necessary ingredient for confession to become a spiritual practice that is exercised in your group. The more real a group leader can be, the more free people are to be themselves and receive the healing God wants to bring. When confession is modeled by the group leader it empowers others to do the same. There may be times that are more conducive to breaking up into smaller prayer groups or same-sex breakouts, which can encourage more openness. Pray for discernment in how to introduce this spiritual practice in your group.
Growth Tip: Aim to create an interactive environment in your group. When somebody shares how God is doing something transformational in their life, pause the discussion and affirm what He is doing. If somebody is sharing a struggle, lay hands on the person and pray. Invite others to do the same. Allow prayer and Bible study to ignite ministry moments. Then model care and demonstrate how ministry is a priority over your group’s meeting agenda. To paint a picture of what in-group ministry can look like go to www.biblegateway.com and do a quick search of the phrase “love one another.”
Growth Tip: Three simple steps group leaders can take to develop outreach in their church’s community life are: 1) Set the expectation 2) Pray for the lost 3) Appoint members to ministry roles. It refreshes the group to discuss its purpose at the outset of each new season. Before entering a new study, share with the group that one of the reasons why your group exists is to share the Good News with others. Then in times of group prayer, be sure to pray for those beyond the group and for your church’s outreach efforts. This fosters an external focus to your group and plants seeds for future outreach. Gradually appoint people to fulfill ministry roles in the group that are in keeping with their passion and gift-mix. Invite them to try out roles for a limited duration at first and start them off with small tasks before graduating them to larger group projects.
Community is the wellspring of the spiritual practices that enable us to be faithful followers and disciple-makers. Each believer’s life with God and effectiveness as a part of the Body of Christ hinges on their relationships with other people. If we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – we must be walking in the most excellent way of loving our neighbors (Mark 12:29-31; 1 Cor 12:31b). If we are to obey the dozens of ‘one another’ commands in the NT, grow in Christ, and show lost people the way home – we need relationships (John 14:21, 13:34-35; 1 John 4:7-12, 20-21). There is no more effective way to ensure the outworking of spiritual practices in our lives than being in community with a circle of believers enjoying full-bodied group life together.
It might sound strange to describe group life as being full-bodied. For example, I like my coffee “full-bodied,” but what does it mean when applied to community? The big idea here is that within the soil of community our roots grow deeper in Christ than they ever would in our own individual experiences (Col 2:6-7). The composition of this soil is enriched when group members engage in a breadth of spiritual practices that allow them to live out their faith with one another. As a result, a group will fully taste and see biblical community in the way we see it expressed in Acts 2: Rich, robust, strong, well-matured, and even flavorful!
God used the depth and diversity of the Early Church’s life together to put skin on His love for the world (1 John 4:12). Its full-bodied community made the disciples’ spiritual life ever-deepening and their Kingdom impact ever-expanding (Acts 2:46-47). This two-part post will explore several key spiritual practices that can be exercised in community, result in life-transformation, and keep your groups and church on mission. Emphasis will be placed on why community is integral to the nature and outworking of spiritual practices. Also, “growth tips” will be offered on how to strengthen the development of each one in your group life.
Growth Tip: Allow fellowship to serve as bookends to your meeting format. Pre-planned fellowship on the front-end helps the group time feel less agenda-driven and more relational because it takes the edge off the start time and allows people to catch up. Fellowship on the tail-end provides a time cushion and allows people to connect more and process through their insights and experiences in the group.
Growth Tip: A couple of ways you can strengthen this spiritual practice with your group members is to introduce prayer during different parts of your meeting. For example, do not always have it follow your Bible study. Include brief prayers in your discussion time and express prayer in different ways (thanks, adoration, petition, and ministry). The more your group gets to know one another, the more freely you can ask different people to lead out in prayer.
Growth Tip: Before you introduce worship to your group, learn which expressions are the most meaningful for each of your group members. This will increase the likelihood of successfully weaving this spiritual practice into your group life and expanding each member’s understanding of worship. Begin by asking them to share their definition of worship and what the most meaningful forms of worship are for each of them personally. For some it will be singing while for others it might be quiet thanksgiving, writing, or some other unique expression. Validate each and share a biblical reference on how it reflects the creativity of the Spirit.
Growth Tip: Find a way to recognize each person’s input because this has a way of rolling out the mat for others to participate. Acknowledgement encourages involvement. The more free people feel to share, the more energy there will be to your discussions. Also, rotating leadership is empowering for the whole group and draws out the spiritual gifts of each participant.
Discipleship (learning and following Jesus Christ) is a plural activity. The disciples were always together in the Gospel accounts. In fact, in every instance a reference is made to the presence of a disciple…that person is with other disciples. There are 266 references of ‘disciples’ and 28 occurrences of ‘disciple’. Almost every reference of the word being in the singular notes how another disciple was with him or it is Jesus making a point in an illustration He is sharing. However, there is only one case when there is talk of a disciple being alone and that is when Peter was denying Christ. What do you think this says about the importance of community for believers?
In the next post, we will examine four more spiritual practices that will help enrich the soil of your group life so that more people will follow Jesus whole-heartedly and impact others with His love and message.