Your Small Group Is a Fireplace (Not the Fire)

Our country needs revival. Our churches need revival. And some believe small groups are the answer. They aren’t. Small groups have no more chance of initiating revival than a fireplace has of starting a fire. No programs, methods, philosophies, or forms can bring about what only God can do. Regardless of how biblically sound, culturally relevant, and structurally effective they are, small groups do not themselves bring rebirth.

Even the best small group leader cannot bring revival. No amount of training, spiritual giftedness, or holy passion will bring it about. Only God creates, initiates, and orchestrates revival. Only God.

Jesus told his followers that he could do nothing on his own but only by the Father’s initiation (John 5:19; 6:38, 44: 7:16; 8:28). If God’s Son worked from this viewpoint, how can we claim that our methods, models, or ministries can do anything? No, our small groups are not the answer. A newer model is not the answer. A new system from a big, growing church is not the answer. What they’re doing in some faraway country is not the answer. Better leadership training is not the answer. Even this blog post and the books I’ve written are not the answer!

Jesus is the answer. We can do nothing apart from God. The Holy Spirit is our real leader. Small groups can be the fireplace where the fire starts, but let’s get rid of the notion that small groups are the fire – or even the match.

How can your small group(s) become a fireplace?

Fireplace Leaders Pray

Before I even start inviting people to a new group, I begin praying – for me as a leader, for the group as a whole, for individuals who will be invited to the group. I pray for people by name, especially those who are not believers, and I ask God to begin working in their hearts. Basically, before any seed is to be planted, I’m asking God to prepare the soil of my heart and their hearts. Or, in keeping with the original metaphor, I’m sweeping out the fireplace and opening the damper before placing logs on the hearth.

When the group begins to meet, I take time each day to pray for each person in the group. Beyond that, however, I take time each day to pray especially for one or two individuals. For instance, if there are ten people in the group, I write two people’s names on each of the weekdays of my calendar in a given week. I consider it part of my responsibility as a leader to hold them up to my Father in prayer every day. And I encourage other members to do the same.

Would you like to know a little trick for stoking the effectiveness of your prayers for group members? This is a secret that Jesus practiced all the time. It’s a secret that seems rare, however, in our busy, me-centered world. Are you ready? Here it is … spend time with group members. Invest individually in their lives. (By the way, you can’t effectively do this with a group larger than four unless you are sharing leadership with a core team.) Serve them. Hang out together (and not just on Google). Eat meals together. As you get to know your group members personally beyond all the small talk, you will know how to really pray effectively for each of them.

Prayer is by far the biggest accelerant for revival and spiritual growth. And leader, it starts with you.

Previous articleAaron Niequist – A New Liturgy No. 5: Here Are My Hands
Next articleDrive Thru History: Ephesus
Mike Mack
Michael C. Mack founded in 1995 and served as a small-groups minister for more than 20 years in several churches. He is a writer, editor, trainer, and consultant in the areas of small groups, leadership, and discipleship. He is the author of more than 25 books and small group studies, including his latest, World's Greatest Small Group (pub. January, 2017). He regularly blogs on his ministry website at His family is a small group that includes his wife Heidi, their four children, and their dog, Lainey. Mike is also an avid mountain biker.

Get the ChurchLeaders Daily Sent to Your Inbox