Within the body of Christ, we should all feel welcome, as though we’re all part of one big, loving family. Yet not every church or Bible study makes us feel that way. Don’t let that discourage you — as Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Why does meeting together matter? We need one another. The enemy “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We were not meant or made to fight alone. So, where do we start? Below find just a few topics to start the gears in your brain turning on some critical aspects to implement in any small group to stay focused on Jesus and help foster an atmosphere of freedom and love.
Structure, but Not Too Much
You need some leaders. Those leaders are going to be key in ensuring activities that go off-topic or in the wrong direction are appropriately redirected. They should also be the ones approving or disapproving of the topics covered in the main teaching, vetting who teaches (only to ensure staying congruent with scripture), and helping set time stamps to be respectful of everyone.
That being said, you don’t want too much structure if you want to leave room for the Holy Spirit to spontaneously lead you into something unplanned (He certainly will, and does, if we let Him). Perhaps consider allotting a certain amount of time for flexibility, and a certain time for structure. For example, an hour of “prayer time” in the beginning where everyone is welcome to pray, share a word of encouragement, worship in song, and just be still before the Lord. In my personal experience, this is very humbling and helps us all get our hearts in the right place at the start. It’s a precious bonding time. A time to just be, in the presence of our Savior.
Then, you may go into a more structured time of worship and a message, with more time (optional) left at the end for people to continue in a state of worship or prayer.
Another thing to be certain is implemented is people who welcome newcomers in as part of the family. This may be carried out by more mature believers who are intentional about reaching out to newcomers outside of group to grow in deeper relationships that just can’t be formed within the small group. One-on-ones provide something groups can’t, depending on their size.
Caution: Don’t let this feel forced. Really be open to rejection, and God’s timing on this.
Utilizing the Gifts of the Spirit
We all are given different skills, abilities, and “gifts” of the Spirit when we become Christian. Whether that be in teaching, music, exhortation (basically a knack for giving words of encouragement), hospitality, or something else, we are all responsible for using these gifts in a way that honors God and builds up His people.
Consult with the leaders on ideas you have for offering up your help in one of those areas of expertise. A fulfillment like no other comes from just giving of your time sacrificially, and forming a special relationship with God and His people because of it! The Spirit brings life to the group when His glory fills the place, and that happens when we surrender to His guidance in various ways to help and enrich others.
Tying It All Together
What are some activities in small group settings you have found work for you to foster a community of inclusion and love? Do you have any ideas on structure, gifts of the Spirit, or being intentional? We’d love to hear them!
By Kendra Semmen