Five plus five marks of a great group
What a time to be alive!
I am constantly amazed at the number and quality of resources for
churches. From training resources, to outreach resources, to music
resources, to books to curriculum. Whatever our reasons for not
taking our world for God, lack of quality resources is not one of
I just ran across a great new resource that I thought you might
like to know about. It is called Re-Group and is produced by
Townsend and Cloud (authors of the best-selling book, Boundaries, as
well as many others) and Bill Donahue (the small group guru for
Willowcreek, and author of many books). This is a great resource for
any group. If I were a Minister of Education today, I would ask
every one of my groups about going through this training.
Re-Group is made up of two DVDs. DVD #1 features four sessions
that train your group on how to do group. This is not small group
leader training; this is small group group training. This piece
trains the group as to how to do your group effectively. There is
about twenty minutes of video, leaving time to discuss the points
covered. During these four sessions, this DVD is the curriculum for
the group. The four topics of these four sessions are:
- Getting connected--God's purpose for Small Groups
- Five Habits of Life Changing Groups
- Determining your groups purpose
DVD #2 consists of thirteen extended tips. Each tip is a five to
ten minute segment that can be shown in class to augment whatever
curriculum the group uses.
The thing that really makes this teaching come alive is that the
teaching is interspersed with a dramatization of group life. I found
these dramatizations to be really true to life. They make group life
David Frances told me his research indicates that many Southern
Baptist Sunday Schools are not small group life at all; they are mid-sized groups. They are more like mini-congregations than they are
like big small groups. It occurs to me that many Sunday School
classes have likely never experienced group life. They have
experienced sit-in-straight-rows-and-listen-to-a-teacher-teach. This
video will give you a great taste of what group life is like--both
the good and the bad.
It seems to be there are three ways you could use this training:
- You could use it as it is intended, where it becomes your
curriculum for four weeks, then you spend thirteen weeks viewing
and discussing a short piece from disk 2
- You could go through the whole thing on a Saturday morning
with just your teachers. This would give them a good feel for
the content without having to disrupt your curriculum plan. The
downside, of course, is your class doesn't get to benefit from
- You could have each teacher go through it privately. There
are obvious limitations to this, but I suspect many teachers are
never going to do #1 or #2 and this would get them some help.
This is the way I went through it and definitely felt like I got
something out of it.
Probably some of you are going to find this training a little too
psycho-babel; a little too touchy-feely. For some of you I would
say: that is why you need it. Not that you need to become a therapy
group, but a step or two in this direction probably wouldn't hurt
The best training is somewhere in between this in
ReGroup piece and what I have long considered the best
teacher training ever: Bruce Wilkinson's Seven Laws of
the Learner. As good as that piece is, my only
complaint is that it is a little too lecture oriented. Still, an
excellent piece and every teacher ought to go through it.
This new piece would be great for every group to go through as
well. I think your group would forever be a better group if you did.
Here are some of the things you would learn.
How to grow
How do Christians grow? We know that Sunday School is supposed to
help us grow in Christ, but exactly how does that work? How do we
Townsend and Cloud have long taught that we grow by being in the
right environment. Just as a seed needs water, soil and sunshine to
grow. We need three ingredients as well:
The Bible says, "It is your kindness, Lord, that leads us to
repentance." We only grow in an atmosphere of grace. We need to feel
acceptance. We need to feel acceptance by God and we need to feel
acceptance by people. The group needs to be a place of acceptance
But, grace alone will not change. We also need truth. The truth
may be biblical truth, or, it could be the truth about us. We need
to be confronted with the reality that is truth.
It is easy to imagine a group with grace or truth, but not both.
If we have grace but not truth, we feel accepted, but are never
challenged. If we are exposed to truth without grace, it tends to
just make us mad. We grow in an atmosphere of grace and truth. But,
we need one more ingredient.
Change takes time. There are no micro-wave saints. There are no
instant Christian leaders. Change takes time. Growth takes time.
But, it must be time in the right atmosphere. It is not
discipleship by hanging around. The atmosphere must be charged with
Session two contained five marks (or habits) of great groups.
Getting these to be part of your group would be worth the effort of
going through this training.
Five marks of a great group
Sunday School is not a School. It is not just a place of
learning. It is not a place where we make smarter sinners. Groups
are a microcosm of the church. They are a place where we care. The
Bible commands over and again that we are to love one another. This
is where it happens. This is who we should love.
Groups need to be a safe place. It needs to be a safe place for
me to share who I am and what is going on in my life. It is a place
of grace. It is a place where I don't have to be perfect. We grow as
we confess our sins, one to another. Not just to God, but to one
another. This can't happen if there is sarcasm or biting humor.
Groups must be a safe place.
Good groups are honest groups. We honestly talk about what is
really going. We get beyond the word "fine." To everyone else, you
can be "fine" but the group needs to know, "How are you really?"
Groups love each other as they are, but they love each other too
much to leave each other the way they are. They push one another to
go to the next level--to higher and higher levels of grace and
truth. We push each other to become a little more loving, a little
more kind, a little more joyful, a little more forgiving, a little
more at peace, a little more like Jesus.
Groups help each other. They fix meals, they mow lawns and they
Five more marks of a great group
As I went through this list, I thought, "This is great. Every
group needs to hear this. Every group needs to be a little more like
But, then I thought, there are a few other things every group
should do. That is the topic of next week's article.