Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.
These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff-no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”
[Later] The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
~Mark 6:7-11 & 30-31 (NIV)
In this passage, Jesus sent the 12 (his small group) out in pairs to be on mission. When they returned, they were exhausted and withdrew together to recover. This tells us two things about small groups:
1. To Jesus, small group discipleship was an active process.
For many Christians today, discipleship is passive. It’s in the laboratory (a house or classroom). But to Jesus, it was a participatory sport! Jesus called the 12 while at the same time sending them.
2. The small group gathering in this passage was for reporting in and resting.
Jesus knew that the 12 would need a time to expend energy and time to recharge. While Jesus led his group to be on mission regularly, he also set aside time for them to withdraw and spend time together. Healthy small groups are active in mission, and they also spend time away from the mission field for times of refreshing.
There has to be a healthy balance. What is that balance? I don’t know for sure. If your group is too worn out to continue, it’s time to refresh. If your group is bloated with knowledge, fellowship, and prayer requests, it’s time to go out. It’s the group leader’s job to feel these seasons out and know when to send and when to rest.