How deeply do your group members care for and support each other? Are they like the 1st century believers in Jerusalem who were of “one heart and mind” and believed that nothing they had was their own but “held everything in common?” (Acts 4) Are they like the believers in Philippi who “looked not only for their own interests, but also for the interests of each other?” (Philippians 2). Are they like Barnabas? Or more like Ananias and Sapphira who chose to keep what was theirs?
Developing a caring group is counter-cultural in the 21st century. Can you see it? And while there are many reasons it is counter-cultural, it’s important to remember that it was counter-cultural in the 1st century, too. But it happened!
Here are 5 keys to becoming a more caring group:
- Caring for each other is modeled by leaders. Beginning with Jesus who “laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself, poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him?” Are you modeling a genuinely caring attitude?
- Healthy transparency and vulnerability is modeled by leaders. Maintaining appearances and refusing to ask for help creates a barrier that is very difficult to overcome. If you want your group members to be open about their needs, you’ll often have to go first. See also, Skill Training: Design Your Group Meeting for Life-Change.
- Establish commitments, values and expectations using a small group agreement. When you start a new group, be sure you integrate the power of a small group agreement that helps group members talk about commitments, values, and expectations. Anytime you add new members, pull out a copy of the agreement and walk through it again. Remember, genuine caring is counter-cultural and not on the radar of many group members. See also, Skill Training: Using a Small Group Agreement.
- Include all four components of a healthy group into every meeting. If all your group is doing is learning what the Bible says but not doing what the Bible says, you’re missing out on one of the most important blessings of grouplife and one of the keys to life-change. Groups that integrate love, learn, decide and do into every meeting are much more likely to be caring groups. See also, Skill Training: Healthy Groups Integrate Four Components into Every Meeting.
- Make heroes out of group members who go out of their way to be caring. Take a hint from the Apostle Paul who affirmed the sacrifices made on a regular basis. Most of his letters include multiple references to men and women who went above and beyond the cultural expectations of the day.
Mark Howell is the Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada and LifeWay’s Small Group Specialist. Mark founded SmallGroupResources.net, which offers consulting and coaching services that help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. You can follow Mark on Twitter at @MarkCHowell.