Balance has always been elusive for me in ministry. Earlier on, I grew skeptical of it because I pictured it as being something that literally meant I was giving equal time and attention to multiple things but somehow not cheating anything. Life rarely affords this luxury so when I heard balance applied to small groups, my instinctive reaction was “Nope – that’s just setting leaders up to fail.”
If we’re honest, we’re probably not doing all of the things we’ve learned that we should be doing in our groups. People connect and grow together regularly through some form of fellowship, Bible study and prayer in most groups. Far fewer develop a plan for building in other spiritual practices, different expressions of worship, ministry, and outreach to make a group experience balanced!
Over time, however, “balance” for me became less about maintaining perfect equilibrium, and more about planning ahead on how you can incorporate activities that are commonly omitted from group life, but vital to the health of it. You need to have a plan to have balance.
The small group leader is the person responsible for driving the process of developing a plan with the group about how they will be intentional about including spiritual practices that do not normally occur in their gatherings. For now, here are four strategies that will help you build a balanced small group:
- Pray – The most powerful thing you can do to facilitate the work of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives is to pray specifically for your small group members to exercise faith and take new kinds of spiritual steps so that they can grow ever closer to Jesus!
- Have a Sidekick – You need a close companion who sees the vision of balanced group life and understands the “why” behind it before you share it with the group. This person is important because you need feedback and somebody who is in the room with you affirming the dream as you share it with everyone. This is a person who is or will become your co-leader.
- Maximize your Kick-off – Be highly-relational, but very strategic during your first session of a new study or season as a small group. Get to know each other better, discover how each person would like to grow as a result of being part of your group, and help them unearth their spiritual growth goals before diving into curriculum. Explain how well-rounded group life will support each member’s personal transformation and help everyone grow stronger spiritually then touch on how the Lord has a purpose in each one playing a part in fulfilling it because of how He has gifted them.
- Leverage Spiritual Gifts – If you believe that every Christ-follower has been graced with spiritual gifts to build up one another as the Church then don’t you think He has a purpose in them for your group (1 Cor 12:7)? Group members provide the necessary feedback and encouragement for one another to identify their God-given spiritual gifts and begin to use them in faith and boldness.
This last point is a master key to building a balanced small group! Maybe the Lord has a unique purpose for every group that is unique to it based on the supernatural composition of spiritual gifts represented in its members. Maybe every small group has its own divine palette of colors that can be mixed together to produce a one-of-a-kind work of art to the glory of God.
If this is so, it stands to reason that a small group will experience “balance” as each member of it works in concert with one another to make his or her own special contribution to God’s mission in the world. Group leaders can catch a vision for building a balanced small group when they tap into the spiritual growth goals and gifts the Lord has planted in their group. Incidentally, if you are a small group point person, know that Accelerate! Small Group Workshops can help you and your church’s leadership develop or strengthen this kind of plan for your whole small group ministry.