In the 1970’s and 80’s small groups began becoming popular in churches. Today, it’s hard to find a church without some sort of small group ministry. In some cases, small groups have replaced Sunday School as the main approach to Christian education and fellowship. In other cases, small groups compliment Sunday School by offering a different environment for teaching and connection.
I’ve spent many years as a Small Groups Pastor. The value of community in the context of a small group is one of my highest priorities. And over years of leading small group ministries, I’ve come across some helpful axioms that help define the purpose of small groups and remind us what small groups are really all about.
Axioms are basically a memorable saying that contain truth. Much like a proverb. Here are three axioms for small groups.
“Life is better connected.”
This first axiom speaks to the value of community. Simply put, our lives are better when we are connected to a small group of caring people who support us during struggles, celebrate with us in joyful times, challenge us when we need it, and stand by us despite the circumstances.
We were never meant to go through life alone. And as Pastor and author Rick Warren has said, “We were created for community.” God is Trinity, three in one. And we were created in His image with the need to be connected to others and live in relationships.
“Circles are better than rows.”
This next axiom speaks to the environment of community. Community happens best in a small group of people face to face…literally. Contrast this environment to a setting where people sit in rows staring at the back of other’s heads. There’s a big difference.
Rows have some value and are best suited for teaching and inspiring. I’ve sat in lots of rows in college, grad school and 32 years of church ministry. But in all that time I’ve never had the speaker stop the presentation and say, “Hey Mark! You need to change your attitude. Your present behavior isn’t helping anyone. And you better straighten up!” It’s never happened.
But it has in a small group. Small groups provide the physical closeness necessary to build the relational capital to be able to lovingly confront others, have meaningful dialog, and gently restore them. The apostle Paul said it this way. “If another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path…” Galatians 6:1. The best context for this kind of confrontation, discussion and restoration is face to face.
“Life change happens best in small groups.”
This final axiom speaks to the goal of community. Whether you call it life change, transformation or sanctification, the ultimate goal of small groups is to provide a safe environment where people can grow spiritually and relationally.
Pastor and author Andy Stanley has said, “The primary activity of the (early) church was one-anothering one another.” But it’s impossible to do any of the 59 “one anothers” commanded in the New Testament in isolation. We cannot love one another, forgive one another, bear with one another, instruct one another, or encourage one another unless we are in community. Relationships aren’t easy. They take work. But God put us in relationships to make us holy. To make us like more Him.
As you’re leading and working in your small groups ministry, remember these axioms. Or come up with your own. They will help remind you of the value of community. Use them in sermons, email signature tag lines, or regular conversations to help elevate the value of community at your church.