How to Start a Small Group…by Thomas Day

Star Formation

Pursue People. Let’s be real here. Church is not a building, it’s God’s chosen people redeemed by grace. When it comes to building the church, there is no dollar to person ratio. Money can’t buy a sweet church with a vibrant community going deep in God. We can’t divide the resources we have invested by the people we have in our church and conclude each soul only cost $57.50, so get out your check book and win some souls?! Of course that would be ridiculous. So when it comes to making a difference know that you’ve got what it takes no matter the size of your bank account. You have love in your heart, a vision from God, two hands, two feet, and a voice. Each one of these gifts from God is essential to fulfilling the ministry God has for you. The whole foundation of Christian work is played out in raw, fallen, humanity. Don’t pursue a title, material thing, numbers, to feel good about yourself, or any other unloving thing. It’s all about blessing people. People have feelings, history, hurts, fears, failures, and hope for tomorrow. And they have a great need for Jesus, the Great Shepherd, and a lesser, yet important, need for you. Keep small groups, (and all Christian ministry) organic and natural. No one wants to eat part hormone-injected beef fed with fertilizer enhanced genetically modified feed and part filler product from which neither have seen the light of day. Likewise, no one wants to eat the spiritual comparison. People are the soil from which our hopes and fears will grow. Therefore, sow generously.


1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us” (NIV). You met Jesus, the author of love, in some back alley jacked up on what drug that got your fix, be it pride, selfishness, cocaine, or alcohol. You didn’t have anything to offer except a broken heart in need of healing and a life in need of a turn around. The moment you met Him he spoke his loving words of forgiveness, hope, and power. Those words still echo in your heart as you have gotten to know Jesus more and more. Yes, we need more of God’s love in our hearts. Have you ever tried standing under a waterfall, not easy, could kill you actually. This is God’s love. Romans 5:5  says “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (ESV). Let that fount of living water flow into your community, workplace, family, and friends. Love changes everything. Be holy affectionate too.


The launch pad of leadership is vision. And the cool thing is you have one. Imagine in the backyard of your heart is a one acre space, rock solid concrete, that has been divinely poured for the sole purpose of blasting people into the stars. By the way, you’re probably not going to be moving 100,000 tons of concrete any time soon. God’s plan for your life doesn’t change. The Lord was not joking when he told you that you would minister to broken and restless homosexuals that are crying out for freedom, who are hated by everyone but you. He wasn’t joking when he said he would turn your love for music, sports, reading, or whatever, into a vessel for His use.  Perhaps the reason you love playing the guitar so much is because Jesus has his heart set on a guitar player who is lost and contemplating the effects of a shotgun triggered at his cranium; And if only you would believe in the Launchpad yourself, if only you would stop hiding from it and get out there and tell people how you really feel, that you have this crazy love for them and don’t want them to suffer in hell or on earth, that your life was radically transformed by this real God man Jesus, and that theirs can be too. Don’t act like you have it all figured out, because no one does. And that’s perfectly fine. It’s better that way anyways. So yeah, maybe not everyone you share with meets the stars, but forget about that; what if they do!? What if your vision actually comes true? And what if you help others see they have a launch pad somewhere in their heart too? All systems go? So what’s next?


You must take leadership. This means several things. You must take initiative. If God has given you a vision to disciple a team of believers then it is your responsibility to take action. It is your responsibility to fulfill the mission. If there are action steps in your heart you know you need to take then by all means do it. Don’t think twice about it. If you are supposed to bake some brownies in the shape of hearts and pass them out and let some people know you have been praying for them then that is awesome. If they like them, invite them to make brownies together and give them to whoever God puts on their hearts. Maybe you’re a dude and you want to play pool and talk about how your friend’s marriage is going. Great! Shoot straight, with yourself, others, and with God.


Hit the launch button for God’s sake. God gave you two feet for a reason. Stop wasting time and go. Ask God for directions and remember sometimes he waits until you are already on the way, moving, obedient, and desperate. Pick up your phone and make some calls. Set a time and place, be consistent. Be trustworthy. William G.T. Shedd once quoted, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” You’re safe in your comfort zone, all cuddled up, watching your favorite time waster, snacking on delicious disobedience. You were made for more than that, set sail!


The conduit of leadership is communication. Let communication be abundant (of course no stalking, but you know what I mean. LOL.) And like I said before, I think face time rules. Nevertheless, do what is natural to you and the people group you are reaching. If they love social media then use it. If they love working out, sweet. If they love reading, nice. If they love coffee at Denny’s, do it. And maybe you are one of those dorky people that is going to start a small group in World of Warcraft or something, like a virtual small group where most of your interaction is digital. Hey, that’s the 21st century—Awesome! You set a time and place to meet. Continue asking for commitment and participation until a verbal or obvious yes or no, don’t settle maybe, or sooner or later. Bring them to a point of decision.


And communication is not preaching (sorry preachers). Effective communication is two-way open, honest, dialogue. During the actual small group meeting let your conversation be Christ-centered; but in the day to day, let your conversation be timely, caring, and generously sprinkled. I’m talking to guys and girls. Guys, talk. It matters.


Don’t talk to your friends and small group members like you’re the boss. That’s gross. There is a time for vision casting, but it is all about developing shared vision. Talk like you’re a friend, brother, sister, and servant. Aside from getting points across, the torque of conversation is listening. Listen, listen, listen. And listen some more. The world is not asking for people to come fix their problems. They are hoping for someone to listen to their problems, which is the first major step in fixing them. Ironic right? God is a really good listener, you should try to be like him. Yes, you have a voice, and a powerful one at that (a voice to move mountains and change a generation), but you also have ears.


People are busy. They have a lot on their plates. Chances are they are interested in attending your small group, but they are busy. Your small group has to become more important than what’s on their plate: fatigue and resting, entertainment, hobby, long drive, money, TV, other social groups perhaps, work, and school. This will not be easy, but we understand that it is good to function in the local body and small groups provide the opportunity to be ministered unto and to serve. Actually, in the U.S. we are beginning to understand it’s kind of hard to do Christianity without community. We are beginning to figure out isolated, sit-in-my-pew-and-fake-smile-to-my-neighbor Christianity is about as powerful as kissing with a 3-inch thick glass wall between you and your special someone. You get the point. The question is—how are you going to make your small group matter? A couple things here. First and ultimately, the leading of the Holy Spirit and the love you have for them will make them stick.


Do not over spiritualize pastoring. It’s nuts and bolts communication and relationship. If you don’t talk to them they won’t come. If you don’t lead they won’t follow. If you don’t spend deep time in prayer seeking God’s face, pouring out your love for your small group and potential small group members, asking for revelation as you read the Bible, then you will not have much to offer, you will not have much going for you. And don’t get too stressed out about results because if you simply do what God ask then He will be at work behind the scenes doing amazing stuff. And make sure He always gets the credit for the cool things that happen on scene.


The second main way to make your small group matter is to make your time together priceless. Many people will be interested in visiting your small group. They’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe in this whole small group thing for a change. Don’t completely mess it up. I’m just kidding, you’re not going to mess it up because you have surrendered the whole thing to Jesus and you’re not a raging lunatic. Let the Holy Spirit have his way. Be normal.


Make sure you’re sharing some kind of something together. Try sharing a meal or coffee together, but sharing a nice run and Gatorade could work too. Worship. Don’t be afraid to just play a CD or stream off the web. The point is to put God first and give time and space to radically express your thanks, praise, and love to God. This is an act of spiritual warfare, and a fabulous four-course meal. Remember Psalm 23? Wait on the Holy Spirit. Dig deep into the Word through participatory bible study. Discuss what it means among you and how to make it real. Make sure every person is involved. Do the word. Small group is not about a sweet meeting, it’s about becoming an interconnected community that does life together with Jesus as the center of your lives. Feel free to cancel your formal small group meeting for a fun night, or dedicate the whole time to prayer, worship, or even community service (especially if no one has time to do that cool stuff any other time). Don’t be religious. Honor people’s time by planning, but leave space and time for the Holy Spirit to move, and trust me, He will.


One last thing. If you get to the point where you have tried and tried to start a small group with people from church, but can’t seem to get it going, then maybe God has anointed you to go on mission outside the four walls. Perhaps God has anointed you to be a local missionary. Perhaps the reason no one has joined your small group is because you have a vision that can’t be contained by the four walls. Thus, I am confident in this: You will make a difference; You will build the Kingdom of God; You will chart new territory; You will speak to people whom otherwise might never have heard the good news, and the crazy thing is that they have been working in the cubicle right behind you or running next to you around the park or firing up the grill next door. Be yourself. And you will find the power of Christ within you as you speak his truth, the power to change someone’s entire world, to launch them into the greatest romance of all.