There’s a huge difference between a biblical community and a community of friends. A biblical community functions with the goal of everyone growing in Christlikeness and they realize that this happens as each person in the group knows and lives out the one another’s, finds and utilizes their spiritual gifts, is on a journey to know their story and allow God to redeem that story, learns and lives the Word of God, and have as their goal to grow the Kingdom of God by starting a new group.
But how, how does a group focus on these things from the outset? How does a group establish these principles and practices in the first six weeks of group life, the principles and practices that must be established early on so that each group member realizes that they have a role to play and a responsibility to birth a new group? We asked these questions and came to the conclusion that there needed to be a six week experience that would establish what it meant to live in Christian community, unearth the one another’s, give each group member an opportunity to tell their story, spend a session finding out what one’s spiritual gifts were, and choose an apprentice that would someday lead a group of their own. The outcome was Great Beginnings: Your First Small Group Study.
Barbara Parker in Dallas, Texas wrote me and told me about her experience using Great Beginnings with her group. Check out her story.
This summer I led a new single adult small group. Several of the members stated they only attend Sunday morning worship service, but they were looking for a place to share life with others. People want to experience true community and a biblical small group is the best place for that to occur. However, to be effective, the small group needs to intentionally take steps to help people make those connections.
We elected to use Great Beginnings: Your First Small Group Study. It contains six interactive sessions with icebreaker questions, focused Scripture reading, and an application section. There is very little homework, which made it perfect for a summer study. Each session was 90 minutes in length.
The first two weeks we got to know and trust each other. By the third week, the conversation became more personal and reflective. People that I have known for years were sharing facts about their lives that I had never heard. There were some tears shed, but there was mostly laughter and encouragement, as we slowly became a unified group.
The most significant week was session four that is titled Transforming Tales. We each drew an illustration of our spiritual journey. Using colors to represent aspects of our lives, each page came to life as the person described their personal story of faith. The acceptance of each person’s story, without judgment by the others, opened our group to a new level of intimacy.
Most telling was when a group member stated she thought she had been doing something wrong because she always had an empty feeling inside. She was sure of her faith in God, but did not understand why she still felt alone. Through this study she discovered the importance of Christian community. She began to understand why we need the fellowship of other believers. Scripture tells us we are to strengthen and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24; 1 Thessalonians 5:11) and that is what Great Beginnings is designed to help you do.
What this study taught us was that becoming like Christ is an all-encompassing endeavor. It is more than studying the Bible and praying together. It is also about doing service projects, sharing meals, and spending time together. It is important to live out spiritual growth with others in our daily lives.
Our group has decided to start a new single adult Sunday morning class. The lessons we have learned were life changing and we want to share that experience with others singles in our church. Our prayer is that Great Beginnings will serve as a catalyst for igniting a ministry that will reach a community of single adults in need of Jesus Christ.
Barbara Parker, Ph.D., is a Leadership Consultant with the Dallas Baptist Association. She previously served as the Director of Women’s Ministry at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Cedar Hill, TX. Barbara attends Dallas Baptist University where she is completing a Doctorate in Education Leadership with a ministry concentration.