On his website, Doug Britton has shared a section from his book, Group Leaders Guide for Marriage by the Book. The title of the section is Benefits of Small Group Studies: Small Groups and Cell Groups Make a Difference! With his permission, I want to share the ten benefits he shares in all capitals followed by my commentary:
PEOPLE TALK MORE IN SMALL GROUPS. When the group is smaller, individuals can participate more. There is less assumption that others will talk rather than me. Also, the group leader will be more likely to recognize when an individual has not participated. Thus, usually a higher percentage of a small group will actually participate than in a larger one.
GROUP MEMBERS REALIZE THAT OTHERS FACE SIMILAR PROBLEMS. There is often more intimacy in a smaller group and more freedom to share struggles and problems. In that context of honesty and openness, individuals often reach out in encouragement when they realize they are not only ones dealing with those issues. This allows group members to feel a sense of relief while at the same time opening channels of help and support.
PEOPLE USE THEIR GIFTS AND TALENTS TO MINISTER TO ONE ANOTHER. In a class of 50, group members often assume that someone else will respond to needs. In a small group, relationships are close, like a family. When a group “family” member is sick or having difficulty, the group surrounds the individual with prayer and concrete ministry. Each group member has a unique contribution to share based on his/her personality, gifts, abilities, and experiences.
GROUP MEMBERS ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER IN THEIR FAITH. People who don’t know one another have a hard time affirming gifts and abilities in others. In a small group, frequently life is shared with the group. Small group meeetings allow for more interaction. This enables the group to pray for, challenge, and encourage each other to live for Jesus daily. The know how best to help each other make changes that are needed for growth.
GROUP MEMBERS HOLD EACH OTHER ACCOUNTABLE.Some small groups even sign a covenant making commitments about their relationship with the group. Honesty is expected. Check ups on progress happen regularly. Confidentiality is required. If a sin or problem needs to be confronted, the group lovingly helps the individual deal with it. They challenge one another to read God’s Word, pray, and prepare for group time. In this context, true discipleship happens.
MEMBERS PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER. Instead of saying that they will pray and then forgetting to do so, small group members follow through. They know that group members are depending on their prayers. They call one another and pray by phone. They often share requests in a small group that they would be hesitant to share in a larger one. Group members are eager to find out the results of prayer. They write down requests and often the answers.
PEOPLE ARE MORE LIKELY TO PRACTICE WHAT THEY LEARN. With identification in problems, an encouraging spirit, a sense of accountability, and real prayer, small group members are encouraged to live what they have been taught. They want to know what each other did in response to God’s truth not out of nosiness but out of genuine love and a desire for help for themselves.
GROUP MEMBERS CAN HELP EACH OTHER IN HARD TIMES. Small group members are available to one another in good and bad times. They stand up for each other and respond in times of need, whether it takes time, money, or other resources. They are in it together for the immediate and the long haul, if needed. I like how Doug said it, “Small group members can provide a “safety net,” supporting one another in hard times.”
FRIENDSHIPS START. While friendships can happen in large groups, often the entire group when it is small becomes a close-knit group. Again, life is shared together. Friendship extends far beyond group meetings. They spend time together on other days and at other places. They care. They want to be together. As Doug said, even if the group were to disband, the friendships formed “often remain long after the group ends.”
What can I do if my group is large? Make it small by (1) regularly dividing group time into smaller assigned groups; (2) encourage care groups to become groups within the group for fellowship, care, prayer, and more; and/or (3) spin off small groups out of your class over time when you have trained apprentices.
Are these ten benefits being realized in your group? If not, what do you need to do to move in that direction? Start now addressing needs. Make this year special. Pray. Encourage. Support. Befriend. Love. Be revolutionary!