The Value of Small Groups
Imagine something small, starting something big. It happened once, when a simple carpenter shared his life with 12 close friends. Their lives were changed, and then they went out and changed the world. Do you believe it can happen today? At Exchange Street we believe that can happen in 2022. Whatever you call them, we call them Life Groups. Small groups of people, people following Jesus —sharing life together. Eating together. Playing together. Learning together. Traveling together. Laughing together. Crying together. And even fighting together.
Consider some of the basic Benefits in being a part of a Life Group. They have been known to hold an entire congregation together when/if it faces a leadership failure; Transform neighborhoods, communities, and even entire cities by selflessly demonstrating the love of Jesus in practical ways; Laugh together ’til the wee hours of the morning; Hold a broken member with strong arms of support – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and even financially – during a time of crisis such as divorce, death, or illness. Spur individuals to greater personal spiritual growth and a knowledge of Scripture and a hunger for prayer; Foster spirited discussion on matters both eternal and earthly while introducing scores of friends, neighbors, and co-workers to a newfound relationship with Jesus Christ. Become (imagine this!) best friends.
Life Groups can do all these things and more. Life Groups are more than “just” a Bible study, although they provide the opportunity to study God’s word. They are more than a prayer group, although they can provide a “bridge line” to God’s throne room. More than just a fellowship time or social hour, small groups can serve as the foundation for deep, truly life-changing relationships. Healthy groups have the potential to serve as a microcosm of the church family, in its purest form: a safe place where people can encounter God and find the resources and relationships to nurture their spiritual growth. “Successful” small group ministries—the kind that change lives— are clear about their purposes and intentional about their programs yet remain focused on people. Having a small group program does not automatically equate to changed lives. Relationships cannot be institutionalized. Growth cannot be manufactured. All leadership within our Life Groups will NOT function alone. Constant training and equipping will be provided throughout the year for all those willing to serve in any capacity within our Life Groups.
We solicit your prayers for our Life Group Ministry and encourage you to seriously seek an opportunity to become a part of one of them.
Our Vision for Our Life Groups
We believe lives will be forever changed for the glory of God through the ministry of Life Groups. God designed transformation to happen by HIS WORD, through friendships/relationships. There are few places that can facilitate such life-changing opportunities that are better than a healthy Life Group. It is in this environment that the truths of Christ are “transferred” into one another’s life. This is such empowering news for you as a small group leader! As you begin leading, you must believe and anticipate that life-change will happen with the members of your group when you press the truths of Christ into one another’s lives. Christ calls us to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). This is what Christ did, and what he called His followers to do. A survey of Jesus’ teaching in the gospels reveals four significant themes that, together, summarize what the life of a disciple looks like. They are identified here as a Gospel Identity, Worship, Community, and Mission. The two places these themes are most prominent include the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:34–40) and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20). Disciples find our motivation for holiness in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; any other source will leave you tired and unfulfilled. Thankfully, Life Groups are designed as a great place for us to constantly remind and encourage one another in our shared gospel identity. Worship is a lifestyle. When we consider who God is and all that he’s done for us, the logical response is to offer our entire lives back to him (Rom. 12:1). Every action, every circumstance, even every thought is an opportunity to worship (1 Cor. 10:31). We live best in the community. Jesus calls us to model him in loving one another because it is by this love the world will know we are his disciples (John 13:34–35; 15:12). He prayed to God that we would experience a unity that resembled the unity of the God Head (John 17:11; 20–23). Paul calls the church to unity so deep it should operate as a single human body (Eph. 4:1–16). To live like this without purpose is senseless. Every Christian is called to be a minister of the gospel through both acts of loving service and a willingness to share the gospel with others. We want to take the kingdom of God into every dimension of our community. We believe that the real “ministry” happens outside the church Monday through Saturday, not inside our auditorium for an important hour on Sunday. Our Life Groups exist to encourage each other to always remember Christ first and to worship God as our first reaction to all life throws at us. We will love one another, especially when it’s not easy to do so. We carry our hope to the world, and our Life Groups will be characterized by an active and intentional love of our world both locally and globally.
Aligned with Groups and Congregation
Do you remember “tug-of-war”? It’s the game where you and a few friends grab the end of a rope while the opposition grabs the other end—and then you both start pulling. Both teams exert a tremendous amount of effort, but neither team moves very far. Nothing is accomplished if you are pulled in two directions at once. Imagine how far you could go if everyone decided to move in the same direction! Involvement within Life Groups must be synchronized with the congregation’s vision if anything of value is to be accomplished by them. If our church is pulling one way and our group members are pulling in another, nobody will go anywhere—and individuals will be stuck in the middle. But when the Life Groups are aligned with our congregation’s vision and the vision of other groups everyone is set up for great things. For example, one of the things our congregation values is prayer, and so when we meet as a Life Group, our groups become an important place where prayer happens. All our Life Group leaders are encouraged to spend specific time in prayer before the groups meet. If this does not happen, we believe the group will be deficient in an important area. The same is true for your church. They might rely on small groups for prayer, leadership development, or other things. Regardless of the value in question, forming relationships, Bible study, worship, it’s important that our Life Groups fit into the ministry of the church. One critical aspect to maintain this cohesive relationship is to have all the Life Groups focused on the same topic or text. For us at this moment in time, we believe this is critical to maintaining unity within our church family.
As you prepare yourself to participate in a Life Group this year be sure to have clarity about the expectations from the Life Group Leader as you make your commitments. Setting expectations clearly from the beginning will go a long way to ensuring your group is playing with the same set of rules. It’s important to know where your church leaders stand on this question. Feel free to ask any one of them if you have any questions about this aspect of our Life Groups.
As you prepare yourself to participate in a Life Group this year be sure to have clarity about the expectations from the Life Group Leader as you make your commitments. Setting expectations clearly from the beginning will go a long way to ensuring your group is playing with the same set of rules.