One of the churches in which I served sat on an interesting place geographically. The side of the main road where the building sat was quickly gentrifying: grand homes were being restored and flipped for big dollars, and the neighborhood was becoming a desirable place to live again.
However, directly across the street was a completely different picture. Drugs and gangs were destroying families, and the crime rate was one of the highest in the entire city. While we felt pretty comfortable being on the “right side of the street,” we knew we couldn’t just sit and watch the pain occurring on the other side of our windows. This tension eventually led to a 24/7 Dream Center with a food pantry, dental clinic, after-school tutoring, free legal services, and much more, but it started with a handful of small groups who decided to love on and adopt a dying community. Those groups would consistently show up every month to walk the streets and offer basic needs, like lightbulbs, to as many houses that would open their doors. That community continues to change because those first few small groups took action.
Changing a community is an admirable goal for a small group, but where do you start? How do you turn your group from inward to outward focused?
Here are four steps to becoming a serving small group.
1. Serve your group.
If you expect your small group to become a serving group, you have to first model servant leadership for your group members. You can follow the example of Jesus with his small group. He served his disciples for over a year before releasing them to do ministry. As you start, make sure you serve them unconditionally and tangibly. There are no expectations attached with true servanthood.
2. Enable group members to serve the group
Even the disciples had to eventually turn over ownership to their quickly multiplying group.
In those days, as the disciples were increasing in number, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. The Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
– Acts 6:1-4
You are discipling your group members by helping them discover their spiritual gifts in order to utilize within the group. Here are a few roles to start giving away:
- Hosting the group
- Providing the food
- Facilitating the discussion
- Handling the prayer time
- Planning events
- Planning missional opportunities
Spend a group meeting talking about where group members gifts and passions are, and then release them to own that portion of the group experience.
3. Serve together in the church
There are always opportunities for groups to serve somewhere together in the church. A classroom needs to be painted. The church landscaping needs some extra care on a Saturday. The student ministry needs more bodies for an event. Take a few minutes at a group meeting to brainstorm ideas where the group can come alongside a ministry within the church.
4. Serve together in the community
Just like our small groups saw a need across the street and met it, there are needs around your community. A single mom that needs her yard mowed. An under-resourced local school that needs more supplies for the teachers. A local fire or police station that could use some encouragement through baked cookies. Whatever you do may seem small or insignificant, but you have to start somewhere. The only way a community is going to be transformed is through one block at a time, by one small group at a time.
Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over 22 years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC, for 15 years. He is also the Small Group Specialist for Lifeway Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson. You can follow his blog at chrissurratt.com or follow him on Twitter @chrissurratt.