As a small group leader and/or member, you know the value of community. It’s one of the pillars of any group ministry and a key component to church life. God designed His people to function best in community with Him and with others (Gen. 2), and His desire is for us to have relationships with other believers who help us grow in our relationship with Him (Heb. 10:23-25). The sheer volume of “one another” commands (59!) in the Bible help us know that relationships are important to the church and to your own spiritual growth. Relationships are one of the main reasons people come back to small groups week after week.
If relationships are so important, then why is it challenging to stay in touch outside of a group gathering? We hear about one another’s burdens, pray for one another, laugh and cry together…and then we leave. Even the most well-intentioned groups have a hard time maintaining a connection the other six days of the week. The answer is simple—life gets in the way. The minute your group disperses, the rest of life’s priorities and challenges flood back into your lives, and it’s easy to forget to keep in touch. But that doesn’t make it OK. To truly be invested in the spiritual growth of one another, staying connected throughout the week is a must. Here are a few ideas to help make that a habit, rather than a hurdle.
- Text, text, and text some more. Text messaging can be the group leader’s best asset, because our phones never leave our sides. If you need the extra accountability to text your group members, assign each of them a day of the week. It won’t take long for the quick check-in text to become a habitual part of your day. Your texts can be as brief as “praying for you,” to as extensive as following up on specific concerns raised in your group gathering. And a simple text doesn’t have to stop there. It can lead to lengthier conversations, coffee meeting, or a follow-up phone call.
- Plan social events. Whether this is your gifting or not, fellowship opportunities outside of your official group time are a great way to help people feel more invested in one another’s lives. Over time, these events will naturally lead to deeper relationships, greater spiritual accountability, and an increased level of connectedness. If planning get-togethers is outside of your wheelhouse, find someone in your group who loves to do it and let that person run with it!
- Share the burden with your group members. Encourage everyone to connect with someone else from the group during the week, whether that be through assigning prayer partners, scheduling one-on-ones, or getting a group message thread going. You want everyone in your group to understand how important it is to invest in one another and to feel a level of personal responsibility to do so. When they do, they are much more likely to remember to pray for one another’s needs, and to share whatever burdens come up during the week.
Laura Magness is a content specialist for Lifeway’s Discipleship in Context and smallgroup.com. A graduate of Samford University and Dallas Theological Seminary, she lives in Nashville, TN, with her husband Nathan and their two sons, Carter and Everett.