November 29, 2011
Don't pass up this golden opportunity.
Christmas is a time to celebrate Jesus' birth and the relationships in our lives—including our small-group friends. With Christmas right around the corner, it's a good idea to begin thinking about what your small group will do together for Christmas.
Of all the Christmas parties with friends and social functions during the season, one of my favorite gatherings has always been with my small group. Regardless of the group (I've changed small groups each year), this is always a memorable time. Last year my small group celebrated with a fondue dinner complete with cheese fondue that we dipped bread and veggies in, and a dinner fondue that we cooked chicken, steak, and shrimp in. It was a slow meal, and it was perfect for the small-group setting. All the group members brought their children, and we went around the table reflecting on the season and our time spent together as a group.
While the food was great, it wasn't just the food that made it an amazing time. There was something about cooking together in our tiny, 1923-style kitchen—broth nearly boiling over, dessert baking in the oven, fridge opening nonstop as people grabbed ingredients and drinks. Cooking together is usually reserved for the closest family members, and it was special to share it with our small-group friends.
If we're to truly live life together, shouldn't we celebrate the season together, too? Check out this article on Christmas ideas from our site, and share your ideas for celebrating below.
November 23, 2011
What our holidays have to do with Holy Days
Keri Wyatt Kent is onto something. She writes in an article on our sister website BuildingChurchLeaders.com that there is a wonderful connection between our holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and so on—and the Holy Days we read about in Scripture. Each of them is a time to remember, celebrate, and gather together before God. Gratitude and celebration are especially important in our walk. It is through them that joy can spring forth and give us strength to walk through the difficult days of life. Additionally, Keri shares how we are called to be grateful even when things are tough, just as the pilgrims were.
Take a moment to read through Keri's insights, reminders, and even an idea about outreach in "Happy Holy Days."
November 22, 2011
Your idea of a great small-group meeting might be missing something
When I think of a great small-group meeting, I think of authentic conversations, new insights, several good laughs, and feeling known and loved. Something that doesn't normally come to mind? Inspiring hope. But that's changed.
Recently at my women's small group, I was filled with hope, and that was exciting—especially because I haven't always been a fan of women's ministry. Our discussion filled me with a renewed sense of mission, identity, and worth. Surprisingly, this great small-group meeting happened despite being in a group with less-than-perfect group dynamics, no clear leader, and a book study that's not exactly the best I've seen—red flags that would normally catch my attention. But our discussion stemmed from a great question, authentic sharing, and wisdom gained over years of following Christ. Our answers steered clear of the trivial and cliché and instead pointed to hard-learned truths.
So is inspiring hope something that we should strive for in small groups? Or should we be content with nice discussions?
The Bible certainly seems to say a lot about hope. Romans 12:9-13 says to be joyful in hope. Romans 15:4 points out that Scripture was written to fill us with hope, and 15:13 clarifies that it should be an overflowing hope, full of joy and peace. 2 Corinthians 3:12 reminds us that hope makes us bold to live out lives of faith. And 1 Thessalonians 1:3 says hope can give us endurance as well.
It certainly appears as if hope might be something Jesus wants for his followers. And if hope makes us bold and gives us endurance to keep on keeping on, it seems that hope is an important ingredient for spiritual formation. After all, if there's no hope of change or redemption, what's the point? Hope sounds perfect for small groups.
So do your group meetings inspire members with hope? Do your group members leave meetings feeling as though they've been on holy ground, that God was truly present in the meeting? Do they leave with a greater sense of identity and mission? Do they leave feeling emboldened to live a life worthy of their calling?
How do we make sure our meetings are brimming with hope? I imagine that depending on your study, some nights are more easily inspiring. For instance, talking about Jesus' miracles and discussing the miracles group members have seen in their own lives probably feels more inspiring than discussing the laws of Exodus. On the other hand, if we're reminding group members of Christ's power, the working of the Holy Spirit, and the deep love of God, can't any topic bring hope and inspiration?
As we head into the Christmas season, consider how your small-group meetings are inspiring hope in your group members. As we consider the hope of the world arriving as a baby, may your group bathe in the light of hope, gaining joy and strength to live lives for Christ's glory.
November 17, 2011
Using the theme of the holiday to connect your group to God and the community
Thanksgiving is one week away . . . are you doing anything with your group to take advantage of the holiday?
Thanksgiving is a great time to fit in an outreach or serving activity with your group. The theme of gratitude lends itself to the message of Christ—with all he's done for us, we have so much to be thankful for! SmallGroups.com has three ideas for you to consider with your group.
A Pie in the Heart
Use pies and Psalm 136 to bless someone.
Have a meal together and invite others to enjoy your small group for the night.
Acts of Thanksgiving
Spend time in active prayer for the community.