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Small group haters

February 28, 2016

There are three types of college small group leaders: those who love leading small groups, those who hate leading small groups, and those who just love leadership and took the job because someone offered it.

First group, you probably have a huge pastor’s heart. When you heard a sermon titled “Jesus Was the First Small Group Leader” that was all you needed. You are thrilled to see people pastored and connected into community and how small group ministry is so much more effective than large events —you’re in!

Second group, you love that your ministry offers small groups and you believe in them to the core. Heck, you’re the one that keeps giving people vision for why they need to be involved in one. You probably enjoyed the first month of small-group leading: new people, new studies, new ideas. Then, routine kicks in: planning, worship, Bible time, wondering if people are coming back, missing Sunday night football! If you’re honest, the driven-leader inside of you is less than thrilled when group night rolls around yet again.

Third group, you were honored to be pulled into a small group leadership team. However, at this point you’re not sure if you love the thrill of leadership or if you think small group is such a thrill any more.

Which camp are you in?

After 20 years of leading small groups for teens and college students, I’m convinced of this: it doesn’t matter which category you identify with most, and as any of my small group leaders would tell you, I don’t even care.

Why? Because we are dead set on seeing the values of prayer, evangelism, and discipleship instilled into every student in the context of community. An Acts 2 small group — done correctly — is the best vehicle to see Kingdom values embedded, and so, advance the Kingdom. So, I don’t care which category you fit in — hater or lover — I only care that you are obsessed with those kingdom values. For us, the way those values get inside students is to be a part of, or better yet LEAD, one of our small groups.

The kingdom values of prayer, evangelism, and disciple-making in the context of community can transform anyone.

Yes, I do small groups to build connections that can’t happen in a big group, but that’s not the main reason. I always come back to one simple exercise we’ve done with our small group leaders a thousand times.

I go to a whiteboard and create two columns. On one side I write “the American dream” and ask them to shout out what we in the west truly value. Don’t get me wrong. I love this nation with all my heart, but sometimes our culture confuses the American Dream with the dreams of God. “Comfort”, someone boldly gets us started. “Materialism”, “immediate gratification”, “power” and “sex” are some of the constants. The “early retirement” shout out always gets a chuckle. On the opposite side of the board, I write “Kingdom values”. After reading Acts 2:42-47, I let them fire away with what they see: evangelism, prayer, healing, financial generosity & worship, just to name a few. Quite a different list!

“How do we see those values discipled into every student on planet earth?” I ask.

Verse 46 says: “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house…” This is where I remind them: we don’t meet “from house to house” because it is the norm for churches and ministries these days. We do it because it is a biblical model to disciple these specific kingdom values into students.

Believe me, every few years for a couple decades now we have wrestled with whether there’s another model/vehicle that would be more effective. We have resolved to keep passing out invitations and to attend a small group on campus because there, one more student will be added to a missional community that will learn to love Jesus, love others, reach out to the lost, disciple another person, raise up leaders and multiply into other new groups that will do the same.

So, whether you do guys groups, girls groups, coed groups, athletic groups, Greek groups, international groups, or Bible studies, remember that a meeting in a living room doesn’t change the world in and of itself. The kingdom values of prayer, evangelism, and disciple-making in the context of community can transform everyone. That’s worth giving up my Sunday night for!