Community does indeed matter. In this blog series, we've seen that true biblical community is a non-negotiable, and that this kind of biblical community is both counter-cultural and missional in nature.
In light of that biblical imperative, we've also seen the importance of leadership in these groups, that leaders either make or break them. We've examined the functions of a truly transformational small group and how they can bind the church together.
An important piece of this conversation we have not addressed, though, is the content. What are these groups going to have as their centerpiece? Around what will they discuss and interact? And how will we, as church leaders, do our part in making sure that our group leaders are fully equipped to foster an environment of spiritual transformation?
Content is important. Intensely important. Choose the wrong thing for the content and the group can devolve very quickly into something that doesn’t matter. It can become a movie-watching party, a dinner party, a group counseling session—but it won't be a biblical, transformational group.
The good news, though, is that there is a lot of freedom in the answer to this question. Churches and their groups can answer the discipleship resources question in a variety of different ways, and each one will have both positives and negatives associated with it. So how do you begin to tackle the issue? Let me give you an illustration that might help.
Think about a backyard. A big one. Now think about a fence that goes around that backyard. Because there is a fence around the yard, you could, for example, turn your kids (or your pets) loose in the yard and let them play. They can run around, throw the football, play on the swing set, dig a hole and fill it in. There are all kinds of options for them because they are contained in the yard, and you, as a parent or dog owner, can rest assured that everything is okay back there.
The “fence” when it comes to group content is a doctrinal decision. This is where you set the boundaries for your groups. You want to make sure that the area you fence in is in accordance with Scripture. There were days when this was an easy decision to make, but we have come to a point in time when building this fence is not only more important than it ever has been, it's also more tedious. It will take some good research on your part, but much like building a fence, once it's done you can have confidence there is safety inside.
If the fence is built on sound doctrine, then the decisions inside the fence are built on church culture. So for example, if your church culture is one in which video is seldom used in worship, then you likely won't want to provide video-enhanced studies for your groups. Or if the culture of your church dictates an expositional approach to the Bible, then you might want to provide resources that further enforce that position.
The point is that once you build the doctrinal fence, there is freedom to make content decisions that support and advance the unique culture of your congregation.
To that end, LifeWay has recently released a new tool that can help with most, if not all, of the fenced-in decisions. With smallgroup.com, a pastor can give any or all of their leaders access to an incredible library of Bible studies, including video-enhanced studies. And each of these studies comes with a customizable discussion guide.
So if your church culture dictates a sermon-based approach to Bible study, then you can use the tool to create studies that align with your pastor's message series. If your church culture dictates that each group leader can choose the resources for his or her own group, then you can give all your leaders access to the church account and each one can either stream video-enhanced studies, create text-based studies, or both. If you're curious about this site, you can sign up for a free trial at smallgroup.com and try it out.
Community matters. It matters enough to build a strong fence. And it matters enough to use the freedom inside the fence to give each group the Bible study it needs.