There is no magic formula for any small group. Each small group is unique, and even every meeting will be unique as it addresses the issues that members grow through in their experience of being a disciple. But using these five units to build a small group meeting is a great way to keep your small group focused on growing oneself and others in Christ.
Since the 1980s, “small group” has been the catch phrase for discipleship. However, I have learned a great deal about what makes small groups effective at growing disciples of Jesus. Here is practical planning structure I learned from Rick Leineweber (who learned from lots of other sources). There are five components that every small group meeting should include:
Welcome – It sets the tone for the rest of the meeting. Welcome communicates inclusion. It is why the Bible speaks of mature Christians to be “…hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” Titus 1:8
Worship – Ministry is fueled by worship. While worship means so much, for the purpose here – worship is the small group lifting and honoring God together. When this is done in the small group context, the group receives God’s presence as part of the meeting. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20
Word – Discipleship consists of three main spheres: Knowing, Being, and Doing. “Knowing” means knowing about God. What does God like or dislike? What is His nature like? What does God love? What does God hate? What does God want for me? What does God want from me? These questions point us to God and who He is. This “information” comes from the one source we consider infallible – the Bible.
Work – Just “knowing” is not enough. We address the Knowing in reading and understanding, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and diligent study of the Bible. We address Being by being present in Authenticity, Confidentiality, and Accountability. We address Doing in determining how we will live the lessons we learn from the Bible. When we discover that God’s truth means that the truth about us is that we fall short in our lives – we must determine to obey. It takes work to sort that out.
Witness – The truth is that Jesus is alive. He lives in the believer. He sits at the right hand of God. This truth means we cannot be quiet disciples. We must humbly point to the One who redeems, restores, and resources us and all believers. He is the One who commands us to grow others to be disciples. We do so by telling and living the truth that God lives and that anyone can be restored to God and Real Life through Jesus.