This is the time of year many small groups and group leaders make some vital decisions about their futures. Will we take a break over the summer? Will we continue meeting after this month or are we done as a group? Is it time to change our focus as a group?
Over the next two months, I want to encourage you as a leader and as a group. It’s easy to lose sight of what God is doing in and through you, and what plans he has for your future.
I thank God for Marcus and Lynda, a couple who led a small group in Dayton, Ohio, nearly 25 years ago. These leaders and this group took me in and showed me how to live as a Christian. They taught me how to study God’s Word, discipled me, loved me, prayed for me, and became good friends.
Marcus and Lynda started that group and led it because that’s what God called them to do. They didn’t know what God would do with their faithfulness. They couldn’t possibly have seen the impact they would make.
An Eternal Message
What you do as you lead your small group is eternally significant, whether you see it or not! You are in the life-change business.
When you build authentic biblical community—the kind where people take off their masks and become vulnerable to the group and to God . . . where the group dives into God’s Word to understand it and live it out . . . where people grow more and more like Christ every day and begin to step out to lead others . . . where people get out of their comfort zones to live by faith and to impact the world around them—you are building the kind of church Jesus dreamed about, the kind of church the gates of Hell shall not prevail against.
You as a small group leader are a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19). You are Christ’s ambassador, and God is making his appeal through you (v. 20). You are a servant of the most high God, administering his grace through your small group leadership (1 Peter 4:10). You are in the most strategic position in the church to bring about real, lasting change in people’s lives.
That’s what Marcus and Lynda and their small group did for me. That group changed the direction of my life. When I lost my job, they prayed with me. When I questioned what God wanted me to do with my life, they encouraged me to step out on faith. When, just three months later, I was moving to go to seminary, they helped me pack.
I believe every small group leader can have that kind of impact! You can’t make it happen, but God will multiply your faithfulness and your wholehearted work as you are involved in his mission.
An Enormous Mission
You are on the front lines of ministry—the front lines of a spiritual battle for people’s hearts and minds. You are touching people’s lives directly, face-to-face and heart-to-heart, and you are making an impact for God on the world.
Does that seem overwhelming to you? Does it ever seem like God has thrown you in over your head? You’re not the only one to feel that way. I feel like that all the time. But it is true that God has given you a very big mission—a mission so large there is no way you could accomplish it with your power alone. And that’s just the point! God continually tries to move us outside what we could accomplish on our own. He wants us to depend completely on him, and so he gives us a mission that seems impossibly big. But, of course, all things are possible for the one who believes. Nothing is impossible with God!
Your part of the mission is simply to be faithful to it—to make it your priority while you are in this world. God will take care of the rest. He will make an impact and change lives through you. I like what Mother Teresa once said: “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”
As a small group minister, I’ve had the opportunity to hear some amazing stories of life change through faithful leaders and their small groups. One leader in our church witnessed the baptism of eight people from his group in a two-month period. This leader walked with his group through numerous unbelievably tough situations.
For instance, a man in the group met a woman on a business trip to Europe, and he called his wife to tell her he wanted a divorce. The family back home was left in shambles, of course, but this group walked through months and then years of a healing process with them.
Another couple from the group moved from Kentucky to Virginia, but the mom and daughter came back to visit and were in a car accident in which the 16-year-old daughter died. The group leader ministered to the family in their time of crisis. God has used this leader’s fortitude over and over again. And the thing is, this leader had himself become a follower of Christ just a few years before.
In another group, a young mom had surgery to remove an ovarian cyst. The same week, her 4-year-old daughter had her ninth set of tubes put in her ears. Her small group prayed for them, the leader and others visited at the hospital and at home, they took food to the family, and they just cared for them. That’s what small groups do!
A salesman in another group had to keep turning down sales appointments because his family had only one working vehicle. A member of his small group had just purchased a new car, so he gave his fellow group member the used car, a recent model with very low mileage. The salesman got a license plate for his new vehicle that says “YEA GOD.”
A couple from another group moved from Louisville to Delaware. Two months later, the wife had surgery, so a bunch of people from the group drove 12 hours to be with her and her family.
All these groups were led by ordinary leaders serving an extraordinary God. They knew they could lead effectively only by investing first into their own relationship with the Father, and then allowing him to overflow from them into the members of their groups.
Let me encourage you, leader: Don’t give up! What you do is way too important. Like Marcus and Lynda and all these other group leaders, what you do has an eternal significance!
Next month, I will continue on this topic. Before you make any major small group life-or-death decisions, be sure to read the June issue!
Michael Mack addressed the question of “Should we meet in the summer?” in his May 2013 column. Find it here.
Michael Mack is the author of 16 small group books and discussion guides, including I’m a Leader . . . Now What? (Standard Publishing). He also leads church training events and consults with churches through his ministry, Small Group Leadership (www.smallgroupleadership.com).