Do Your Small Groups Cultivate This Powerful Ingredient?

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What have you designed your small groups to produce?  Such an important question.  When I’m asked a question like that, I’m always drawn back to Andy Stanley’s line that “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.”  It’s easy to substitute the words small groups for ministry as in “your small groups are perfectly designed…”

So what have you designed your small groups to produce?

I guess the easy answer is something like, “our small groups are designed to produce disciples.”  Or “disciples who make disciples.”  Or fully devoted followers.”

All good.  Hopefully all true.  But I want to shine the spotlight for a moment on an ingredient I’m thinking about more and more.  I want our small groups to intentionally cultivate a sense of family.  This was one of several ingredients I wrote about in The End in Mind for My Ideal Small Group.

A sense of family.  Why is that ingredient important?  Clearly the family is God’s design and yet a growing number of people don’t live anywhere near their family.  You may live near your family, but if you do, you are rapidly becoming an exception.

With one exception, most of my ministry has been in areas that were quite transient.  Cities or parts of cities where it was common for few were from there.  Southern California. The Woodlands, Texas.  Roseville, California.  Las Vegas.

The one exception has been Orland Park, Illinois in southwest Chicago.  What an amazing thing to realize that many in our congregation lived within 20 minutes of where they grew up.  Southwest Chicago is one of the most static communities in the country.  It is very common for adults to have large extended families, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts and cousins who live nearby.

My sense is that one of the ingredients we must help our groups cultivate is a sense of family.  Far beyond a Bible study.  Way beyond a group that gathers for two hours on Thursday nights…we need to be cultivating a sense of family.

In The End in Mind for My Idea Small Group I wrote:

My ideal group will definitely have a sense of family.  A really healthy family.  We may not always agree, but we’ll always feel like we’re safe, loved no matter what, forgiven when we do dumb things or say dumb things.  Or mean things.  When something good happens for us everyone will celebrate with us.  When something bad or difficult happens, those same people will be the ones crying with us.  My ideal group will make it easy for me to belong.

Life-change happens when we’re known.

What are you doing to cultivate a sense of family in your groups?

What are you doing?  Have a question?  Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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  1. Thom Emery on March 27, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Yes! Relationships not Curriculum have to rule the day.
    Sure a great study makes it all better but caring, committed friendships
    give us reason for doing it all.

  2. markchowell on March 27, 2014 at 7:23 am

    How to make it happen…that is the question.

  3. Thom Emery on March 28, 2014 at 7:28 am

    From our experience of em
    Love em
    Pray for em
    Pray with em
    Open the Bible with em
    Share your life (not just the cool parts) with em
    Listen to em
    Understand em
    Feed em
    Repeat from the top

    Below Beef Brisket is a good way to include em

  4. markchowell on March 28, 2014 at 7:54 am

    I love it, Thom! And the brisket looks very good!


  5. Dewey Segler on April 14, 2014 at 5:54 am

    This is “the” key that fits the mystery door of why some groups work and others just don’t. Now, how do we get leaders do embrace the concept? Thanks Mark! We love your teaching.

  6. markchowell on April 14, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Thanks Dewey! I believe the only way this is communicated is by modeling the practices you want your leaders to emulate. In most cases this will be modeled by coaches to leaders (which implies you are modeling to coaches). No substitute in a world where so many do not have a frame of reference for the practice.