Two negative outcomes are possible when a small group of the same people meet together indefinitely. One is that the group gradually disintegrates. Another is that the group becomes exclusive. Other people aren’t really welcome-even if it’s said that they are.
One way to avoid this is to try to get people involved with a different group each year. It’s something I’ve found fairly successful. Another is to focus on the “empty chair.”
To have an empty chair means that as a group you think about someone who will fill that chair. It could be a follow church goer, a friend of one of the group members, somebody’s neighbor or a relative. The group then prays for that person and the person who will extend the invitation. That’s one task most any group can take on, if there is a willingness to see others become part of your meeting. And it could lead to someone making a profession of faith in Christ, feeling they’re a part of your church or growing in their relationship with the Lord.
At Covenant Church in Fayetteville, GA, where I work we’ve done some significant mercy ministry projects through our small groups. One that has become a staple is Prison Fellowship’s Angel Force-both the Christmas gifts and the summer camp ministry.
To do something for somebody else is an important component in a small group’s life. It helps to get the focus off the needs in the group and centered on someone or something else.
If a group isn’t careful they can find themselves centering virtually all their prayers around needs of people related to the group. This too can be one of your tasks-to pray systematically for someone or something not directly related to you.
In addition to all this, working on a task together will help cement relationships within the group.
Remember the three legs of the stool which enables small group ministry to stand-task, Bible study, and an opportunity to tell your story.