Groups are about growth. By definition, members in an effective group will become “more” of something. Hopefully, they will become more loving, honest, effective in living life, knowledgeable of God, and intimate with him and others. In the book Safe People we said that a “safe person” is a person who helps us do three things:
• Get closer to God
• Get closer to others
• Get closer to becoming the person God created us to be
In other words, as a result of being with good people, we should be growing into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God, deeper and more meaningful relationships with other people, and a greater fulfilling of our own created identity. Growth is about all of life.
Right Mind-set Leads to Action
We think that the same three growth directions happen in a good group. Becoming “more” of the persons who are closer to God, others, and their created identities means that members have to do new things, have new experiences, and learn new skills.
Time to Try New Things
Therefore members must accept a role and responsibility to try new things in the group. As these new experiences, skills, and learning become part of who they are, members take new things to the outside world. In chapter 36, “Expect the Unexpected,” we talked about a mindset. Now we are talking about actually “getting out of the boat.” It is the fruit of the earlier mind-set. It is the “works that prove one’s faith” part of the group experience. Consider the words of James:
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone (James 2:20–24).
In other words, it’s good to have faith that God will grow me in a group. But to actually “work” or have “actions” in that group is another thing. Members who take risks in the group and do new things there will grow the most. Being active in the growth process is each member’s role and responsibility.
Group can be a very powerful laboratory in which people get their first opportunity to learn certain life skills. If used correctly, group can be, for example, the family environment where members learn to relate in ways that their original families never taught them. Old patterns can be changed as people learn new ways of being in this new family of God. But that requires that they actually do new things.
Each Member Is Responsible to Grow
You cannot do these things for the members any more than a parent can walk for a child. Neither can the other group members. And neither will God. Each member is responsible to take active steps for his or her own growth. As Paul says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12–13). God and others can help, but each one must also carry his own load of growth and compare his growth work only with himself (Galatians 6:4–5).
Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2010). Making small groups work: what every small group leader needs to know. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.