I am very grateful for the interest and comments I’ve gotten in regard to advice on what to do in a new small group. This third comment, taken from my post yesterday, is from Art Mealer at Church Task Force. This is a repost of a post he has up on his blog called Starting Out Simply. It is an awesome post, so even though it may seem long (for my blog anyway) it is worth reading.
I’m in the midst of doing the same things (again), and a friend of mine in Texas just called yesterday and said he is also taking this step. Along what Alan has already well said, here’s a few other simple, starting out/re-purposing suggestions:
When getting together think family, conversations, food and neighbors.
1. When getting together, forget “church” and think “extended family get together”–aunts, uncles, nephews, cousins, nieces, grandparents, and a spattering of “enfamilied” friends–over for dinner, outings at the park, at reunions, weddings, holidays, helping each other, etc.
2. When getting together, forget sermons, sermonettes and bible studies (these can be empty substitutes for life) and think conversations. Don’t pray for my conversion yet–let me explain!
Each of you focus on actively following God every day–and when you gather–over studying about Him. Get used to responding to His leading, whether in the every day mundane or in the unexpected.
Listen for God. Each day, all week, within yourself and around you, and in others. Pay attention; be observant. Our Father, who told parents to “teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deut 6:7)” does the same for His children.
Listen to God. Every day read a book or books of the bible. Memorize a book. Read and think and ponder until scripture swirls around in your head and is coming out of your ears (and mouth). When He leads, you might study/ponder the same psalm or book for a few months or more (it’s a combination of how dimly we see/how hard our hearts are and the immeasurable depths of His wisdom).
If you do these two things, your “family” will find no end to the conversations together and to pulling out your bibles to rethink and consider and dig and compare whenever you are together. But listen to Him when you are together. If you are learning every day to follow His leading and prompting, you’ll better know what to say, when not to say something, when to stop, etc. For some, they will need most to learn to act when He prompts them. For others, they will need most to learn to shut up and sit still when He prompts them (my problem *sigh*).
When that kind of conversational interaction becomes your norm (I Cor 14:26 etc), sharing out of full hearts and lives, you will also find yourselves in bible studies and in sharing for extended times–but not as the main course nor as the sole course. You will also find, just as when a family meets, not everyone has to sit and listen to a solitary conversation. That occurs part of the time but it certainly isn’t the main way the family converses when together. Loosen up!
And let the kids play! They see what you are doing and it imprints them for life. But don’t put bow ties and frilly dresses on them and make them sit like little adults for a few hours. Let them come and go. You’ll find yourselves outside playing with them sometimes, and looking in on them in the other room. Playing, laughing, being hugged and kissed by aunts and uncles while they turn their noses up and their faces smile with joy. Family. Not…”church.”
3. When getting together forget sip and a chip or coffee and a donut, and think meals. Everyone that can, brings something to share. Fancy, plain, big, small, yummy and yucky. And let the meal include remembering the Lord’s death, expecting His return, and rehearsing the table He is preparing for us. Let it be joyful, not a wake. He’s alive. He’s here! He’s coming back physically. He has a table prepared… Oh, what a fortunate family we are!
4. When getting together, forget missional, missions and ministries and think neighbors. Who is my neighbor? Those you pass by as you follow Him who are in need (“as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him” Luke 10:33). These may be those next door, at work, at the market. But for the most part, they should be natural contacts, where (if you are paying attention) He brings these people across your path, not something forced and artificial.
Just like the difference between sermons and conversations, if we are full of Him and following Him, we will have work enough serving “neighbors” without creating artificial ministries where we go somewhere else and dabble for an hour or two a week. Of course, He may move where you live to get you among those He wants you to come across. If we follow Him, He will make us fishers of men. Fishermen live by the sea, and their work is strenuous, long, and obtrusive labor at odd hours.
Like I said, it was worth reading wasn’t it! Thanks Art.