Small groups are on the front lines in the battle to see everyone become world changers. Small group leaders get to see people make significant decisions and even become believers for the first time. It is essential to make the most of these moments together. A great worship session may help someone get through a tough day, but a strong small group system can produce life-long followers of Jesus.

Photo Courtesy of InterVarsity 2100 Productions (c)

Photo Courtesy of InterVarsity 2100 Productions (c)

Our regional team with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, led by Andrea Thomas, has put together and tested 5 elements to enable anyone to lead a world-changing small group, and I would like to share these with you. The 5 elements are as follows:

Element #1: Community

The backbone to a life-changing small group is trust and transparency among the members. This can only happen if the small group leader fosters an atmosphere of God-centered community. Sometimes this can be achieved simply by having food so that your members will stick around longer and get to know one another. Sometimes it is as risky as leading the group to share openly and vulnerably about their lives.

  • What does your group need to become more open and honest with one another?
  • Advice: Plan a fun get-to-know-you activity and serve your favorite snack.

Element #2: Scripture

The compass of your small group must be Scripture. Your group needs to hear from God in order to experience transformation. Scripture is the primary place to hear from God as a community. Be intentional in choosing scripture passages that intersect with the everyday circumstances of life. I urge you not to read a Christian book, study a sermon guide, or watch Bible videos (… boring).

Instead take a scripture passage and wrestle with the text… together! Bring your curiosity, your ideas, and your unique lens to the passage. I do think tools like books, guides, and videos have their place, but nothing is more transformative than communal discovery of biblical truths. I suggest the Inductive Bible Study method.

  • How can you make scripture more central in your small group?
  • Advice: Pick 4 of your favorite Bible passages and use them this month.

Element #3: Focus

As you hear from God through community and scripture, He will focus your attention on the world around you. Though scripture and community make a killer 1-2 punch, it is not the end. Your group will experience the tug of His Spirit saying, “Go!” God’s love will ALWAYS compel you to reach out to those around you.

Take this chance to help focus the group’s attention on 1-2 places. I suggest having one local and one global focus. Consider going to your city hall or VolunteerMatch and finding volunteer opportunities in your area. Consider researching nonprofit organizations in a certain part of the world and supporting their work financially, I suggest the International Justice Mission.

  • How can you help your small group love your neighbors, your city, and the world?
  • Advice: Click on the links above and do some research.

Element #4: Risk

As a leader you will need to create risky opportunities within the above-mentioned focused efforts. Consider challenging your small group members to have 1 spiritual conversation at the next volunteer opportunity (i.e. at the hospital, at the food bank, at the local school, etc.) . This will be really risky for some of your members, but encourage them to go for it. Believe that someone might become a Jesus follower for the first time!

Consider sending 2 of your small group members overseas for 2 weeks to visit the nonprofit organization that you are supporting. This will really stretch your group to take larger risks. Believe that lives will be changed as you give and go to this part of the world.

It is in the midst of these moments of risk that we feel inadequate and exposed. This will move your small group members into a deep experience of prayerful dependence on God. The feeling of displacement that comes with risk-taking is quite transformative.

  • How can you help your small group take more risks within your focused areas?
  • Advice: You must not shy away from taking risks. Go first, and ask others to follow.

Element #5: Impact

As a leader, you will need to measure the overall effectiveness of your small group. One way to measure this is through its impact on the lives of the individual members and on your focused efforts. You cannot control impact. God controls it. However, you can create the atmosphere and opportunities for impact to occur. You do your job, and believe that God will do His job according to His time. Consider taking at least 10 minutes to pray together at the end of every small group so God will bring impact in you and around you.

One way to summarize these elements is consider it as an equation. After all, I am engineer, so forgive the need to make things into a science. Consider this equation:

Community + Scripture + Focus + Risk = IMPACT

After implementing this equation within my area a few years ago, we have seen slow and steady growth in small groups and their overall attendance. Check out the graph below:

Missional Small Groups

I have led many small groups over the course of my time with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Some lasted for a short 6 weeks, and others lasted the length of an academic school year. I’ve had both difficult and extraordinary experiences being in the trenches as people wrestled with their relationship with God. Though it took much time and sacrifice, I would not trade any of those experiences. I hope you get the opportunity to lead a small group on campus, at church, at work, or in your neighborhood. Start today!

What are other ways that you have experienced a world changing small group? Share a story of a great small group experience. I’d love to hear what you want to add to this list. Please comment below.