Simple Small Groups: Three Simple Patterns
So recently I started to read this new book by a small groups pastor out in Kentucky. He started out as a skeptic about small groups but now he has fully bought into them. Naturally I wanted to see what he thought was so great about them so I ordered the book on Amazon (it was only $3!) and I started to read it. What I realized while reading is that most small group books say the same thing over and over and over and over…. However that doesn’t mean that these books aren’t good. It just means that everyone is coming to realize the same things about small groups. So I wanted to take the next couple of weeks and share what I have learned from Bill Search’s book Simple Small Groups. Over the next few weeks I will be pointing out some stuff that I thought was important in this book. So lucky you! You get to reap the benefits of me reading this book! You get all the good stuff without any of the hard work!
Bill’s book revolves around 3 C’s. Personally I don’t like the C’s but I think he is on to something good. The 3 C’s are: Connect, Change, Cultivate. He says that all good small groups will have these three elements or patterns. So lets go ahead and take a quick look at each of these patterns and draw out how we can be thinking about our own Lifegroups in terms of these three patterns.
We all know that connecting is an important part of smallgroups. Connection is how community happens. For a Lifegroup to develop meaningful community connection must happen. Usually members of Lifegroups start out as casual acquaintances. Luckily at Soma we don’t have to worry about creating acquaintances, that naturally happens through our Sunday night meetings and our hangouts after Soma. (I’m thinking the intern house…) Eventually those acquaintances become friends. Once this happens we see the group move from “hanging out in smallgroup” to “hanging out outside of smallgroup.” Not everyone makes it to this stage, but that’s okay! Finally some groups move from being a group of friends to being a family. Not every group makes this shift, but that’s okay! Intimacy is not required for groups to experience meaningful connection.
Bill says that changing is “the spiritual and relational renovation that transforms us into the likeness of Christ.” Changing is not merely learning, not is it simply behavior modification. Its becoming more Christ-like through the Spirit’s work using scripture, the preached word of God, prayer, spiritual disciplines and community. Basically for Bill its about our growth.
This is probably the “C” that I like the least. It sounds so strange to me and it doesn’t seem to communicate what he wants it to communicate. Anyway Cultivating “is the missional lifestyle.” Its wholistic, its not simply evangelism or simply service. Its living out your faith outwardly, with your whole being. He says that “When a group is cultivating they are developing an outward focus that engages their hearts into action.” This is an important pattern, and its possibly one of the most difficult patterns to do well. However as “cultivating” becomes important to us each follower realizes that they have been called to make an impact for the kingdom in the world around them. As they realize their call they will begin to step out in faith and use the gifts that God has given them.
The 3 C’s at Soma
So hopefully by now some of these patterns are beginning to resonate with you. You might be thinking to yourself… “yeah I wish our group did that more or did that better.” Or maybe you are thinking “yeah we are pretty balanced with all three of these.” Both of those places are good places to be at.
Also you might be thinking: “these sound very familiar.” Well they should sound VERY familiar, after all these three are super similar to our vision for Lifegroups at Soma. In case you forgot our vision for Lifegroups is:
1-We come to encounter Christ
2-We desire to connect with and minister to one another as the Spirit Leads us
3-We desire to be missional and expand God’s Kingdom
Yes, these are our three C’s! A long time ago Dairek and I preached a series on our vision for smallgroup and we shaped it around three C’s as well:
1-Communion with Christ
3-Comissioned with the gospel
So the point is that we already had these patterns! That is why this book is so useful; it helps us examine where we are at with them and how we can grow in them. So for the rest of these “articles” you can translate for yourself: Change=Encounter Christ, Connect=Community, Culitvate=Missional. So lets take a super quick look at Soma’s three patterns.
We Come to Encounter Christ
This is the heartbeat of our groups. Without Jesus in the middle our groups are nothing but self-help groups. We are no better than AA or the Rotary club. We encounter Christ in our worship, in our communion times, in our discussion of the sermon, in our prayer times for eachother. Christ is the focus of all we do and he should permeate all of our actions in group. As Lifegroup leaders we must constantly remind our group that we are here to encounter Christ and grown in him through our encounters.
On a side note, encountering Christ is not something we do as individuals. We also encounter Christ through others. As we see Jesus change the lives of others we see how good Jesus is and we are transformed as well! So encountering Christ is not something that we do “together as individuals” we do it as a group!
We Desire to Connect With and Minister to one Another as the Spirit Leads Us
The Holy Spirit is the agent through which community is built up. (1 Cor 12:12-25). Ephesians 2:21-22 says that the community of believers is joined together and rises to become a temple of the Lord. Paul tells us that we are being built together as God’s dwelling place by his Spirit. Thus the Spirit is interested in us growing in unity. So building community is more than just facilitating hang out times or creating meaningful memories. As leaders we build community by giving the Holy Spirit space to create community. This means that we create space for the members of our Lifegroup to minister to one another as the Spirit guides us. This might mean leaving time open form encouragement and prayer, or it might mean creating space to pray for God to heal someone in the group.
We Desire to be Missional and Expand God’s Kingdom
This is probably the most unnatural to us in our Lifegroups, but its one of the most key components of biblical Christianity. God calls us all to be on mission, but as I have said before in sermons: our most effective witness is not what we say as individuals but how we live as communities. We desire that our communities (Lifegroups) be places where the love of Christ is lived out for eachother and for others. Christ’s love is so attractive to unbelievers! But we need to create opportunities for non-believers to see Christ’s love in our community! Also we need to be proactive about inviting non-Christians in to our communities. I know its hard! But as we see God begin to bring people to himself something happens in us. Our faith grows and our excitement for the kingdom to expand increases!
Wrapping things up
Okay so we have talked A LOT about a bunch of different things. Keep these three patterns in mind as we move forward in the next few weeks. Next time we will take a look at what Biblical Lifegroups look like. Have a great week!