One of the most common questions I get as a Community Groups Director is, "What curriculum should my group study?" You'd think my first reaction would be to pull out a list of the top small group studies by category and find one that fits the make-up and season of life of the group in question.
But that's not what I do. "What curriculum should my group study?" reveals a deeper tendency that we should be aware of in Groups; one that, if we're not careful, can limit the effectiveness of the group experience.
The natural drift for most group leaders is to focus on the study of Scripture, theology, or topical principles from the Word. This isn't surprising. One of the ways many of us came to know Christ was through reading the Bible as well as books theology or the practice of faith. We think we can plug in the Scripture and studies that were instrumental in growing our faith and voilà!: people grow spiritually and the group is a success. If only it were that easy.
The truth is, Community Group is more relational than informational.
Biblical knowledge is important. Theology is important. Godly principles on marriage, parenting, relationships, and spiritual growth are all important. Without them our walk with Christ would stagnate. But if information was the key ingredient for a growing relationship with Jesus, we'd just pack people into rows, feed them information, and send them on their way. We'd have no need for community. We wouldn't need to form circles in homes all across the city.
But growing spiritually doesn't work that way.
When we get out of rows and into circles and begin developing deeper relationships, not only are we more open to receive and understand the knowledge that is so crucial to our lives, we also see the way to live out God's truth in our everyday life. Knowledge is important, but relationships are, in some ways, even more important.
Here are some ideas about how to keep your group more relational than informational:
Value life updates over your study. Always take time to catch up on what's going on in your members' lives. Don't feel bad if you sometimes need to shorten the study time in order to discuss someone's struggle or celebrate someone's victory.
Ask great questions. When preparing for your group, be particular about which questions to include. Avoid questions about demonstrating knowledge (e.g., "Who rose from the dead after three days?"). Focus on questions that tap into people's personal experience (e.g., "When have you struggled to forgive someone?"). Write your own questions if you need to.
Hang out socially. You'd be surprised how well you can get to know your group members by taking a week off of curriculum and doing something fun. Many people—especially seekers and new believers—aren't comfortable letting their guard down at the actual group meeting. Getting out of that setting can help build relational connections.
What are ways you have been able to keep group more relational than informational?