What Makes an Irresistible Small Group

cookiesby Phil Sommerville

I have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies.  But honestly, who doesn’t?  I especially love freshly baked, made from scratch, chocolate chip cookies.  Making cookies is a lot like making a great small group.  You mix in the right ingredients and you get something that’s irresistible.  Of course when you first start mixing, it’s a mess.  It doesn’t look so good and it doesn’t taste good either.  Small groups can be messy too, especially at the beginning when you are mixing together different personalities, backgrounds, expectations, experiences…you get the idea.  The point?  Don’t be afraid if your group is a little messy.  It’s to be expected.  It’s normal.  You’re not failing.  Just keep mixing in the right ingredients. 

What are the right ingredients for having an irresistible small group?  There are five absolutely essential ingredients to a great group.  Just like making cookies, if you are missing any of these ingredients, your group won’t turn out right.  The five ingredients of a great group are:  Friendship; Bible study and Prayer; Caring for those in the group; Serving as a group; and the secret ingredient that makes all the difference – Fun.  If you have these five ingredients mixed together in your small group, it will be irresistible.

Here’s the good news.  In cookie making you have to be somewhat precise in the quantities of your ingredients.  For instance, if you use tablespoons instead of teaspoons of Baking Powder, it will be a disaster.  I speak from sad experience.  However, in a small group you don’t need to be precise about quantities – you just need to have all five.  Some groups will emphasize friendship, others Bible study, others serving.  As long as you also include the other ingredients, it will be a great group experience.  But if any of the ingredients are missing, the group will struggle and die out.  In the weeks to come, I will cover each of these ingredients, helping you to understand their necessity and how to mix them into your group life.  But for now, take a look at your group and see if any of the ingredients are missing.

Here’s more good news.  To have a great group you don’t have to be great at any of these things.  Yes, you heard right.  You don’t have to be great at ANY of these five things to have a great group.  All you have to be is reasonably good at all five.  If you’re reasonably good at all five things, the mix of the five together is what will make your group great.  So, take the pressure off yourself.  You don’t need to hit homeruns in all these areas.  Now, chances are, as your group develops, it will become great in one or more of these areas.  Consider that a bonus, sort of like doubling up the chocolate chips.

Finally, one more bit of good news.  You don’t personally have to be good at all five areas.  If you are fun-challenged, find the party person in your group and tell them to plan something.  If you are compassion-challenged, find the compassionate people in your group and put them in charge of organizing everyone to care for those who are hurting in your group.  If you are people-challenged, well you’re probably not even leading a group, and that’s probably a good thing.  You get the idea.  Don’t do it all.  You’re not that good and it’s not good for the group.

Here are the five ingredients: Friendship; Bible study and Prayer; Caring; Serving; and Fun.  Are any missing in your group?  Next post I’ll share some ideas on building the necessary ingredient of friendship.  Until then, bake your group some cookies.

Phil Sommerville is co-founder of Faith Alive 365 and a former Small Groups Pastor who has trained hundreds of small group leaders from churches of all sizes.

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