The other day I was listening to a sermon by Chip Ingram in which he compared authentic community to an “ecosystem.” I like this comparison. For years I’ve taught that authentic Christian community is the “environment” or “culture” where people grow best. I used to use a Petri dish as an illustration of the fact that everything needs an environment or culture in which to grow. So do Christians. In the environment of Christian community, Christ followers receive all the nutrients they need to grow spiritually.
I think I like ecosystem better. Ecosystem suggests an interdependence upon one another in the environment, functioning together with each other for the betterment of the whole. It sounds a lot like Paul’s description of the body of Christ.
So I’m going with ecosystem now. And as we well know today, healthy growth only happens in a healthy ecosystem. Interestingly, even ecologists find it difficult to define a healthy ecosystem. (Check out the blog from the EPA,”What Is a Healthy Ecosystem?”)
I’ve already done a bunch of research on this, and I’ll share some of the results of the health assessments our leaders at Northeast Christian took last spring. I think this will help small group leaders to not only understand what makes a group healthy or unhealthy, but to begin to make healthier choices as they lead.
7 Signs of a Healthy Small Group Ecosystem
Question #1: Is your group healthy? A healthy group is a group that will naturally grow, develop, bear fruit, and reproduce.
Question #2: How do you know if your group is healthy or not?
Last spring I wanted to answer the second question so I could help our groups answer the first one. So I thought and prayed and asked other leaders and pastors and read and prayed some more. Finally I came up with what I called “7 Signs of a Healthy Group.” I’ve now modified that original list slightly:
The group leader and members recognize that God is the real leader of the group (the leaders are stewards of the group). Group meetings are focused on the presence and purposes of Christ in their midst (Matt. 18:20) rather than on curriculum, group issues, individual’s needs and desires, etc.
2. Healthy, Growing Leader.
The group leader is growing in his or her faith by being involved in daily disciplines such as Bible study and prayer.
3. Core Team.
The group is led by a Core Team of 2-4 members who share leadership. No one leads alone.
4. Goals & Plans.
The group has a written Action Plan that includes a mission, goals, expectations, ground rules, etc.
5. Authentic Biblical Community.
The group meets regularly & consistently. The group regularly prays for and ministers to one another. Group members participate in a role, (shared ownership) in the group. The group is doing life together outside of meetings.
Discipleship (helping one another grow up spiritually) is intentional. The group engages regularly in group Bible study and application.
Christ’s mission (Matthew 28:18-20) is the group’s mission. The group regularly prays for their lost friends and is sharing their faith with others. The group is intentionally open to new people. The group is serving others together and/or individually (or has a plan to do so if the group is new).
The RESULT or “fruit” of a healthy group is one that is …
• Reaching Out