Put Relationships First
The second major aspect of leading a small group is this: prioritize relationships. A group of 10-12 people who come together for the first gathering, all at various places in their walk with Jesus, all with pain and fears, all with stress and strain, all with varying degrees of commitment to those in the room need more than anything else a safe group of people they can trust.
In a world with connectivity at our fingertips, where people share on social media without a filter, and where people are easily offended, we have forgotten what it means to give others permission to share with grace and truth what God intends for us to hear. A small group can be those people if we will put relationships first.
I’ve noticed that a major question Christians ask before joining a group is, “What are we studying?” We’ll look at who is leading and other variables that affect our ability to participate, too. The curriculum matters. I’m an academic guy who loves to study. And yet, the Great Commission says we are to teach people to obey everything Christ commanded, not simply to teach them. So the tension will always be between how much time we devote to Scripture and how much time we devote to one another.
I believe a healthy small group will value both and will make Scripture lived out in the context of relationship its litmus test. Christ became a person, died for people, and is making the church into the new humanity (Ephesians 2:14-16). What if we gave one another permission to enter into our brokenness, our questions, our biggest dreams and passions, and our celebratory moments?
Groups will all have their own flavor and relationships will take time. Mutual trust and accountability don’t take place overnight. People have been hurt. Trust is a risk every time. Disagreements over theology or preferences crop up. So I know it is one thing to acknowledge the relational nature of discipleship and paint a pretty picture, and quite another to let the rubber meet the road. And yet, I’ve also experienced these kinds of small groups. God does this. The Holy Spirit binds us together. If you’re a small group leader or in one, let this be your prayer.
The blog posts on the right are meant to help you put relationships first in your small group.