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Do Your Small Groups Cultivate This Powerful Ingredient?

What have you designed your small groups to produce? Such an important question. When I’m asked a question like that, I’m always drawn back to Andy Stanley’s line that “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.” It’s easy to substitute the words small groups for ministry as in “your small groups are perfectly designed…”

So what have you designed your small groups to produce?

I guess the easy answer is something like, “our small groups are designed to produce disciples.” Or “disciples who make disciples.” Or fully devoted followers.”

All good. Hopefully all true. But I want to shine the spotlight for a moment on an ingredient I’m thinking about more and more. I want our small groups to intentionally cultivate a sense of family. This was one of several ingredients I wrote about in The End in Mind for My Ideal Small Group.

A sense of family. Why is that ingredient important? Clearly the family is God’s design and yet a growing number of people don’t live anywhere near their family. You may live near your family, but if you do, you are rapidly becoming an exception.

With one exception, most of my ministry has been in areas that were quite transient. Cities or parts of cities where it was common for few were from there.  Southern California.The Woodlands, Texas. Roseville, California. Las Vegas.

The one exception has been Orland Park, Illinois in southwest Chicago. What an amazing thing to realize that many in our congregation lived within 20 minutes of where they grew up. Southwest Chicago is one of the most static communities in the country. It is very common for adults to have large extended families, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts and cousins who live nearby.

My sense is that one of the ingredients we must help our groups cultivate is a sense of family. Far beyond a Bible study. Way beyond a group that gathers for two hours on Thursday nights … we need to be cultivating a sense of family.

In The End in Mind for My Idea Small Group I wrote:

My ideal group will definitely have a sense of family. A really healthy family. We may not always agree, but we’ll always feel like we’re safe, loved no matter what, forgiven when we do dumb things or say dumb things. Or mean things. When something good happens for us everyone will celebrate with us. When something bad or difficult happens, those same people will be the ones crying with us. My ideal group will make it easy for me to belong.

Life-change happens when we’re known.

What are you doing to cultivate a sense of family in your groups?

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Mark Howell serves as Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. He founded SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services to help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He spent four years on the consulting staff at Lifetogether and often contributes to ministry periodicals such as the Pastor's Ministry Toolbox and ChurchCentral.com.