One of the main purposes of small groups is to develop mature people who follow Christ more obediently. But in churches, and especially in small groups, different people may view spiritual maturity in different ways. Some may think of it as having lots of Bible knowledge, for example, or having a great quiet time everyday, or being perfect.
At Community Christian Church, we believe that spiritual maturity is really about speedy obedience. No one says it better than our lead pastor, Dave Ferguson, in The Big Idea: “For a Christ follower, the measure of maturity is determined by the speed of obedience. The most mature Christ follower is not the person who has attended the most church events or accumulated the most information about Jesus, but rather the person whose heart is most transformed. And transformation is seen when a person hears God and responds with swift obedience.”
In addition to setting a specific goal for spiritual maturity, small groups also have the incredible privilege and responsibility to set the pace for spiritual growth in the church. But that highlights another misconception that often develops in groups. We think that it’s our responsibility as group leaders to take our members from being atheists to missionaries in one year or less. In reality, that’s not the case at all. Maturity is about speedy obedience, and the pace for spiritual growth is about moving ahead one obedient baby step at a time.
That’s why small-group leaders need to learn the skill of helping their people identify “next steps.” Below, I’ve identified a practical, three-step game plan that will help encourage your group members to move forward in spiritual maturity. I recommend writing this plan down and modifying it to fit your specific group or ministry, because have a written plan will allow you to do four things: assess the need for growth, ensure clarity and direction, create accountability, and measure progress.
Note: The following steps should be applied at both the individual and group levels.
Step 1: Clarify Winning
The first step is to think about where we ultimately want our people to be, spiritually. We must lead with the end in mind. So what would it look like for our members to win in terms of spiritual growth?
For example, at Community Christian, we want to develop 3-C followers of Christ:
* Celebrate God regularly in a corporate setting;
* Connect with others in a small group more genuinely through support, confession, and accountability; and
* Contribute their resources, gifts, and talents regularly and generously.
Whichever goal you have in mind, it’s important to remember that your members may not arrive at their destination within your group. In fact, we will never fully “arrive” as Christ followers on Earth. So as a leader, think of yourself more like a contributing author who writes a chapter or two in God’s story for each member. Others have “written” before you; others will likely “write” after you. You don’t have to write their whole book.
But you’ll win in your small group if you can get members to successfully take the next steps towards their end. They don’t have to be perfect. You won’t make them perfect, but you want to set goals and do things that will keep them moving in step with Christ.
The most effective way for your group to think with an end in mind and clarify wins is to establish a clear group covenant. This allows you to set a reasonable timeline, to encourage reasonable steps, and ultimately to achieve reasonable goals.