In part 1 of this mini series, I highlighted that I consider mission to be an integral part of making CU small groups work. Without a focus on being explicitly outward looking, CU small groups run the risk of becoming social groups or otherwise merely replicating that which could be done in church small groups. An all-round mission focus, like the one I suggested, is necessary.
An equally important emphasis needs to be placed on relationships, and to let small groups be as strategic as they can as small groups. As a rough rule of thumb, I think that a small group that has more than about twelve regular attendees in it should be split. Getting much larger than this takes away all of those things that makes the small group format work. One of the larger college groups in Lancaster splits into two groups for some of their small group time. Two Bible studies are run concurrently, allowing all members of the group to discover and engage with Bible passages for themselves. This is particularly helpful for those who are non-auditory learners.
It's not only Bible study that benefits from a 'smaller' small group. CU members can support each other more adequately too. Of course, primary pastoral support for small group members should come through their own local church. However, the Bible does envisage that all Christians should care for each other (as shown in the 'one another’s'). Rather, support amongst CU small group members should fall into two categories:
- Small group members care for each other and encourage each other to radically live and speak for Jesus through prayer and friendship;
- Small group members are on the lookout for any deeper problems that cannot be handled by ‘one-anothering’, humbly leading people struggling with these problems to those in local churches who can help.
I've seen trust amongst small group members develop as they loved each other in these ways. This has an amazing effect on wanting to witness together. As I mentioned last time, evangelism can be transformed from the activity of an individual to a group activity through regular small group outreach. It's been really pleasing here to see one small group in particular take this to heart. They're not only friends with each other, but also friends with each other's non-Christian friends.
I would say that the other important relationship in making CU small groups work is the relationship between the small group leaders and their Staff Worker. Ideally, small group leaders need to commit to attending weekly training. This acts as a kind of 'team time' for small group leaders. Ideally, this acts as a safe time when leaders can ask questions, grow, develop godly practice and get trained. Weekly meetings help small group leaders bond on a corporate journey as they grow, and also allow the staff worker to ensure that small group leaders aren't getting overburdened, or playing the role of church leaders.
Part 3: coming soon - think grace