Small groups are an important piece of a church’s ministry. So, what will keep your group members coming back week after week? Relationships are key. When group members know, trust, and value each other, your group will flourish. A sense of community will increase group member engagement and attract new people to your group. We need healthy, strong relationships with other Christians, and a small group is a perfect place to find those! As a group leader, you have opportunities each week to lay the groundwork for genuine community.
Here are three tips for building community that will reap significant rewards.
1. Invite group members to share their faith story.
It’s common to be in a Bible study group with someone and not really know much of their faith journey. So, ask one group member per week to share briefly about how they initially heard about Jesus and came to faith in Christ. This can be done in 5-7 minutes and will build community like nothing else. Offer your group members one or more of these questions to get started:
- Who was instrumental in shaping what you initially knew about Jesus?
- What are some of your early memories of church?
- What verse helped you understand what it means to follow Christ?
Ultimately, we’re giving our group members an opportunity to share their testimony. We’re also allowing group members to hear the gospel! Our stories of what Jesus has done in our lives are powerful. They are personal, real, and heartfelt. Beginning your group time with a personal story will only amplify the truth of whatever Biblical text you will study: God is real and He desires a relationship with His people.
2. Serve together sooner rather than later.
What opportunities exist for your group to minister together? Is there a need in your church or community that your group can meet? Choose one that fits the skills and time availability of your group. Then, make a plan to meet this need, involving as many group members as possible. Your goal is simply this: to come together as the Body of Christ to meet a need. And, don’t delay. The sooner your group gathers around a need to serve, the better. You’ll be surprised at the variety of skills and talents your group members possess. You’ll also be building relationships and demonstrating the privilege and responsibility we have of serving God together.
3. Make group member engagement a trademark of your weekly group time.
This is easier said than done. Honestly, it’s simpler to prepare your Bible study and share it with limited discussion or group member engagement. But, investing the time and energy to increase the role of group member’s in your meeting time will reap valuable dividends in the life of your group. Increase group member engagement by inviting someone to lead your prayer time. Ask volunteers to read aloud part of the Scripture passage you’ll be studying. Invite someone to share church announcements or plan your next fellowship gathering.
Finally, ask open-ended discussion questions about what you are studying. Open-ended questions are tricky! What if someone asks a question I cannot answer? How do we refocus if the discussion gets off topic? What about the person who will talk for 30 minutes? Be prepared for those scenarios, but ask those questions anyway! When group members discuss how God’s Word has impacted their life or which verse resonates with them this week, these opportunities form the foundation for deeper relationships and genuine community. Invite your group members to speak up and be a part of the discussion. The benefits far outweigh the challenges.
It’s no secret that God designed us for relationships, both with Him and each other. Being actively involved in a small group Bible study helps us to know God’s Word better and teaches us how to apply it our lives. With time and a few intentional choices, you can cultivate a sense of community that will take your group members past surface relationships to real fellowship. It’s what we were made for.