Healthy small groups : 4 areas of focus

One of the key characteristics that defines a healthy life is intentional, purposeful activity.  People are designed by God to have a purpose.  Even people who don’t believe in God recognize that a sense of purpose is one of the keys to mental health.  Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, capitalized on this theme a few years ago with his best-seller The Purpose-Driven Life

What’s true for individuals is true for churches.   Healthy churches are churches with a clear sense of purpose and some idea of how to get there.   Yet in any area of life, including church life, it is so easy to get into a rut and just keep doing things as we have been doing them.  It can be a real eye-opener to stop and ask ourselves some questions :

  • Why are we still doing this ? 
  • What was our goal?  Have we lost sight of it?
  • Are we there yet? (subject of a recent sermon at City Church)
  • If not there yet (most likely we’re not), are we still on the right track?
  • If we’ve gotten off track, how did it happen and what adjustments do we need to make?

When it comes to small groups, there’s a useful “health check” that can help us evaluate whether we are on the right track.   Think of your small group and ask yourself these four questions :

  1. Are we looking upward?  Are we looking to God who is our source?  In our gatherings and our times together between meetings are we truly connecting with God and opening ourselves up to God’s purposes, his living word, and the operation of his Spirit?
  2. Are we looking inward?  Are we opening up to each other at more than a surface level?  Are we building connections that involve learning to trust each other, sharing struggles, joys, sorrows, hopes, victories?  Are our hearts becoming connected?
  3. Are we looking outward?  Are we learning to think like Kingdom people?  Are we living for His purposes or is our small group only about us?  Are we learning to see the people around us from God’s perspective, and do we bring their concerns and needs – especially their need of salvation – before his throne? 
  4. Are we looking forward?  Often honest friends are one of the instruments God will use to help us see the areas that he wants to transform, and to support us and pray for us and help us to grow.   Are we willing to take the risk of challenging each other to grow up in Christ – and the greater risk of opening up our own hearts to that same challenge?