"Dude, I Can't Shepherd a Small Group"

5 tips on building community in your next group.

Some of you have been leading groups for six years—hosting is old hat for you. Some of you have been doing it for six months and may be looking to become a better host. And some of you just completed your first six-week study and, frankly, are still recovering from the experience.

Some of you may have stories like mine: John, who was a leader of a college group I was in for six weeks, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Brett, I think you're ready to facilitate a group with a few other guys."

"Dude, I don't even know where my Bible is, let alone what's in it."

He said, "Brett you've been very faithful, and we're desperate; we need somebody to help these few guys." I said, "Thanks for your honesty, but I'm a little scared, and I don't think I can do it."

He persuaded me to lead, despite my insecurities. All I had to do was call and connect with a few friends.

Over the next couple of years I experienced community unlike I ever experienced with guys before. I was given the awesome opportunity to witness Jesus' ability to shepherd my heart as well as the hearts of others.

Jesus wants every sheep, even the one stray from the flock of 100, to have a faithful shepherd. And small groups help fulfill this desire.

Small groups follow the biblical model in Acts 2. The early church gave themselves to study, teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. And they gave to one another as they had need. Because of this commitment, they added to their numbers daily. It's clear that God blesses us when we meet together, fellowship together, study together—share life together. We need to meet in places like our neighborhoods, where we can include people who want to be known and need to know Christ.

What Does It Take?

When called to lead, often the response is, "I don't have what it takes." But here are five simple principles to enable you to cultivate a healthy group that produces healthy lives over time.

  1. CONNECT your group with one another. It's your job to create a circle of friends, so ask the Lord who he wants you to bring together for at least six weeks.

  2. CULTIVATE your spiritual journey. The dream is that you spur your group on toward love and good deeds. But this only happens by hearing the Word of God. Get into God's Word like you've never done before, because this is how you'll grow and be able to encourage others in their journeys.

  3. CHAMPION your gifts together. Bring them in, build them up, and train them for ministry. Help people discover their unique God-given gifts. Celebrate and cheer on each other.

  4. COACH your group to shepherd one another. Not all of us are called to be leaders and teachers. But all of us are called to disciple—or shepherd—one another. Our job is to send them out, not just bring them in and build them up. We need to send them out for the purpose of evangelism. All of us are called to one day have the name of someone we are shepherding.

  5. CELEBRATE your lives together. The big idea here is to gather people, even when they go out and start a new group, and celebrate life together. Don't miss birthdays, anniversaries, or life-changing events.

Where Do You Begin?

Now you know you have what it takes, but you may be wondering where to begin. It's as simple as ABC.

First ASK God who to invite. That's what Jesus did when he sought his disciples. Go through your email and phone lists, and ask God to reveal to you who to invite to a six-week study, and be open to the unexpected person he might reveal.

Once God reveals those names, BEGIN inviting them right away. Don't hesitate, but pick up the phone and call them.

Then take the time to CHECK out material to use for the six-week study. There are lots of series: a Doing Lifetogether series, 40 Days of Purpose; 40 Days of Community; a Beth Moore series; an Experiencing God series; anything from Navpress. The key is to check out the material and begin prepping right away.

First Peter 5:2-3 urges believers to "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving s as overseers—not because you must, be because you are willing, as God wants you to be." Some of you are saying, "I not entrusted with a flock, am I?" You're given a circle of friends—this is your flock that God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not begrudgingly, because there's no one else to do it. And remember, your reward will be an unfading crown of glory in honor and praise of God Himself.

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