May 25, 2012
Check out our free digital magazines!
Depending on how long you’ve been visiting SmallGroups.com, you may not know about our free annual digizines—that is, digital magazines. Once a year we choose a topic, go in depth on it, and publish it on our site. It looks like a magazine, and you get to turn the pages like a magazine, but it’s completely online. In the past we’ve covered worship in small groups, inspiration for small-group leaders (because we can all use some encouragement from time to time!). We hope they’re great resources for small-group leaders or for small-group directors to use as part of small-group leader training.
This year’s digizine will focus on missional living, especially as part of a small group. You’ll hear from Alan Danielson, Scott Boren, Carter Moss, and Scott Nelson, a newcomer to SmallGroups.com. Plus, we’ll include great activities to get your group thinking more missionally and provide helpful product reviews. We want to help your group thinking differently—to understand that small groups aren’t just for ourselves, but for God’s redemptive purposes.
Look for our free summer digizine on August 7, and check out our archives here. Because they’re completely free to access, we hope you’ll enjoy them and pass them around to your friends.
May 22, 2012
Subscribe today for free!
Did you know that SmallGroups.com sends out a weekly e-newsletter? The brief newsletter highlights our newest resources and keeps you up-to-date with the hot topics in small-group ministry. The best part? It's free!
Plus, you now have another reason to subscribe: it's an award-winning newsletter. Last week the Evangelical Press Association announced their 2012 winners, including an Award of Excellence for SmallGroups.com's newsletter. If you're not already subscribed, sign up today. For a sample, click here.
May 18, 2012
We too often forget to include Jesus in our meetings
Have you ever had a small-group meeting without Jesus? I know I've been guilty of it! It's far too easy to focus on the preparation, the discussion, and the overtalker and completely leave Jesus out of our meetings. Of course, small groups should bring us to the feet of Jesus, but it's too easy to check off our small-group meeting tasks and never actually experience God in our midst.
But it's important to keep our focus on God—not just because that's what we're supposed to do, but because it's the only way we'll experience true community. In our digizine Worship in Community, Bonnie McMaken shares why keeping Christ at the center is crucial to true fellowship. She writes the following in her article "A Theology of Small-Group Worship":
When small-group members worship together, they focus their attention first on God and his divine character made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ. Everything else the group does stems from this place of Christ-centeredness.
This upward focus on Jesus also brings a sense of transparency to the group, because coming face-to-face with the holiness of Christ means we see ourselves as we truly are: broken, sinful, and in need of grace.
This vulnerability is essential for building community. Our pretenses are stripped down and we come as we are—with our flaws, the messy week we've had, and the angry words we said to our spouses earlier that day. Sure, these evidences can be easily concealed from our group, but worship provides the space to open ourselves to God and to others.
Be warned, though—when we are honest before God and one another, it can be uncomfortable and humbling. Worshipping together allows the divine and the physical to intersect in powerful (and sometimes awkward) ways.
How do you keep Christ at the center of your meetings? In what ways do you invite group members to meet God in their midst? Share with us below.
To read her full article, click here.
May 10, 2012
What one woman learned when she was out of her comfort zone
My guess is that if you're reading the SmallGroups.com blog, you probably already have a beautiful picture of what biblical community looks like. You probably try to help others get involved in community through small groups. You probably even have stories of how being in community has changed lives--maybe even your own.
But have you ever felt awkward in community? Or wished you could live in community with only people of your choosing--those that are like you, with few major issues, and do an equal amount of talking and listening? I'm not afraid to admit I've had those thoughts!
In a recent post on the Kyria Culture Blog, Amy Simpson shares how she had a major realization when she was out of her element--wearing different clothes and talking with a different accent from those around her. She was uncomfortable. But she also found something beautiful in the awkward situation. Read her post here.
May 8, 2012
Why the study shouldn't be the main focus in small-group meetings
A healthy small group focuses on building relationships that help us grow into Christlikeness. That's why getting to know one another, studying Scripture, and praying for one another are so important. But what happens when you have a group member who is too focused on the Bible study? It's good to want to learn more about God, but it's probably creating an imbalance in your group dynamics. What may be easy for you to see is probably a blindspot for your Bible-loving group member.
Allen White, a regular contributor to SmallGroups.com, recently wrote a blog post that offers five signs that a group member is too focused on the study--even that the study has become an idol in his or her life. Read it today.
What have you done to help group members focus on all aspects of group life, not just the study?
May 4, 2012
An excerpt from our newest resource
This week we added a new resource to our long list of Training Tools: Helping Group Members Become Great Listeners. We've had another listening resource, Becoming a Great Listener, for many years, but small-group leaders kept asking, "How do I help my group members learn how to listen?"
Listening well is really difficult, and not many people are all that good at it. But group members need to learn to listen well if we're going to have healthy, transformational small groups. Helping group members with these skills requires leaders to model them well. Plus, leaders need to learn how to make the most of teachable moments and to confront those who are not listening well. But before all that, we need to convince group members that listening well actually matters.
In her article, "The Heart of Listening," Beatrice Rusu explains why listening is so important--not just in small groups, but in all relationships. Here's what she writes:
Listening is important in all relationships. In fact, you can't have a relationship if you do not listen to the other person. This is true of our relationship with God as well as our relationships with others.
Listening builds relationship in a variety of ways. It is foundational to any relationship because it communicates to the speaker that he or she has value and is worthy of your time and attention. Listening means slowing down to hear and process what the speaker is saying. As we listen to others, we also can identify things we hold in common. Our similarities can bring us together, but this requires the process of discovery through mutual sharing and listening. Listening also helps build trust in relationships. When you feel listened to and valued, you are more likely to open up more. When someone can be trusted to care about a small concern you have, you are more likely to share something significant with this person in the future.
We also know listening is important because the Bible tells us God listens. The Psalms tell of God listening to the cry of the afflicted (10:17, 22:24) and the prayer of the pure in heart (66:18–19). There are also many passages that tell us God listens to his people Israel (Numbers 21:3, Joshua 10:14).
Jesus exemplified the way God listens and cares for people in his interaction with the invalid at the pool of Bethesda in John 5. Paul E. Miller describes it like this, "When Jesus is with someone, that person is the only person in the room. Jesus slows down and concentrates on one person at a time. … This one-person focus is how love works. Love incarnates by slowing down and focusing on just the beloved. We don't love in general; we love one person at a time."
May 3, 2012
We want to hear from you.
At SmallGroups.com, we spend a lot of time creating great resources to help small-group directors, coaches, hosts, and leaders. From our inspiring and helpful articles to our super practical training tools, we hope to provide your small-group ministry with exactly the resources it needs.
So, we want to hear from you. What are the biggest issues you're facing in your small-group ministry? Do you have questions about training leaders? Wonder how to handle tough situations related to group dynamics? Curious about what you should study next?
Tell us below. We're all ears!