Fall is a great time to start a small group fellowship. School is back in session, vacations are over, and families are settling into a routine. If you have ever felt led to start a small group, now is the time.
I’m reminded of a woman in the Bible who started a small group. In Lydia’s day, believers in God met at the Jewish synagogue for worship and Bible reading. Her hometown of Philippi had no synagogue. Lydia was a Gentile businesswoman who had come to believe in the God of the Bible. So she found a place outside the city gate at a river to meet with others for prayer.
“On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”Acts 16:13-14, NIV84
Because of her faithful devotion to God and to those who gathered with her, she found herself one day listening to the words of the Apostle Paul, who shared the truth about the Messiah. Lydia became a follower of Christ, led her whole family to the Lord, and then opened her home to Paul and those with him.
“When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.”Acts 16:15
I can’t imagine the discussions that took place at her house with Paul, Timothy, Luke, and Silas under her roof! But then I remember, she was just a woman who ran a business, who believed in God, and who was faithful to meet with others for prayer. She didn’t know everything–but God saw her heart and used her.
Why start a small group?
I can think of several reasons, but I love that it gives us the opportunity to make disciples as we grow and do life together.
“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”1 Thessalonians 2:8
Paul reminded the Thessalonians in this passage that he had come to them in complete sincerity, willing to share his very life with them. I believe this is the heart of true discipleship.
We can invite people to church and to Sunday school (and should!), but small groups are more intimate, provide opportunities for people to ask questions, and allow for ministry to take place on a more personal level.
Jesus had those He discipled one-on-one, as well as the twelve apostles, and many disciples. I recommend finding one person with whom you can spend one-on-one time, as well. Just think, if each of us made it our goal to find one person to disciple, what a difference we could make in our communities!
I challenge you to find that one person and invite her to your small group; then suggest meeting together once a week–just the two of you.
Okay, so here are my five best tips for starting a small group.
First, pray. Pray specifically for God to speak to you and show you if this is something He is calling you to do. Pray that He would lead you in every aspect of starting your small group. If you don’t know how to hear from God, read this post on how to discern the voice of God.
Second, ask God to show you whom to invite. Decide on how you will invite them–in person, by email, paper invitation, Facebook group, etc. I recommend keeping your group small (8-12 people).
Third, choose a format for your study. Do you want to have refreshments or a meal? Adding a short time to share food together usually opens your group up and allows time to get to know each other. How long do you plan for your meeting to last? Let people know what to expect.
Fourth, choose a time and location. Work around your church’s schedule. Talk with your pastor if you wish to meet at church. I recommend meeting in a home, which encourages your ladies to relax and share with each other. Discipleship is about doing real life together. Time spent together in your home will allow you to be vulnerable with the ladies you bring together.
Last, choose a Bible study carefully. Do you want a video-driven study, one with a small amount of homework, or a study that goes deep into the Word? This consideration will depend upon the ladies you invite. Unchurched ladies or new Christians may be more encouraged by lessons that are shorter; while others may desire to go deeper in God’s Word.
If you are looking for a Bible study for your small group, I encourage you to consider Let’s Run! Running the Race with Faith and Perseverance or Inside Out: How Intimacy with Jesus Changes Everything.
Let’s Run! is great for believers who are serving God but want to go deeper and learn more about what it means to walk by faith. Inside Out is a super option for unchurched ladies, new believers, or those who are familiar with church but don’t understand what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Here’s a little more about each of them:
Let’s Run! is a 6-week study of some men and women in the Bible whom God commended for their faith. As we look at their lives, we see that they weren’t perfect; they were normal people, just like you and me. But they believed God. They ran their race with faith and perseverance, and their lives encourage us to do the same. This study will help your ladies uncover the truths of God’s Word and apply them to their own lives.
Five daily lessons cover these topics:
- Faith and Worship
- Faith and the Word
- Faith and God’s Faithfulness
- Faith and Ministry
- Faith and Opposition
- Faith and Victory
Inside Out and Upside Down is a 7-week Bible study that explores the Gospels and the Song of Solomon to help you discover God’s plan for personal relationship and kingdom living. In these weeks of study, you will
- Understand the difference between outward religion and relationship
- Learn how to find satisfaction in Christ alone
- Discover God’s purpose for community through the local church
- Explore the counter-cultural kingdom of God
- Assess the costs and the benefits of kingdom living
Each week of both Bible studies ends with a Weekend Devo to summarize the lessons and give opportunity for thoughtful reflection and application. You can also find small group ideas at the end of each week.
This is the best time of the year to start a small group, so if God has put that desire in your heart, then what are you waiting for? Start praying for the women He has put on your heart, and be ready to step out and make disciples. That’s doing kingdom work!
Next week on the blog: How to Lead Your Small Group.