November 2020, St John the Baptist Church
‘I miss church’, ‘I feel isolated’, ‘it’s tough to feel connected to God when I can’t come to church’, ‘I miss worshiping together’, ‘there is no-one to encourage me in my faith.’ These are all things that people have said during lockdown. The call of Jesus is to ‘follow him’ through good times and bad. To follow him means that we learn from him, seeking to adopt his lifestyle, behaviour and values – this is the essence of discipleship. How can we find the support, encouragement and accountability we need to be disciples in these challenging times if we can’t come to church? Well, if we can’t meet in a big group on a Sunday, perhaps we can meet in smaller groups. Homegroups are one answer to this, but homegroups do not work for everybody. Another solution is micro-church. By that, we mean groups of 2-4 people. These groupings have certain advantages over homegroups:
· They are lightweight, flexible, informal, organic and easy to organise.
· The flexibility means they can work for everyone at whatever your life-stage.
· They get around the restrictions of lockdown – it’s possible to meet outside for a walk as a pair or when the rule of six returns as a group of 2-4 or they can easily meet virtually.
· They help overcome the challenges Online meetings – in a smaller group its easier for each person to have a chance to speak and be listened to
· They can operate without a clear leader, and there is no need for formal training
Also, they have fantastic spiritual benefits:
UP – the encouragement and mutual accountability possible foster transformation and growth.
IN – it’s possible to go deep quickly; support, care and vulnerability are easy to achieve.
OUT – learning to love and follow Jesus naturally leads to loving and serving in our community and a desire to share the Good News of Jesus with others. These groups can be attractive, accessible and powerful ways of introducing people to Jesus for those who are not yet Christians.
Greg Ogden writes,
The church urgently needs to recapture its original mission of making disciples of Jesus by creating intimate, relational environments of multiplication and transformation.
That is what these groups are about. So why not form one?
Here are some stories from people who have been part of such groups.
‘…the smaller context of [meeting as a three]…has helped…[us] feel known by one another, which in a season characterised by isolation and loneliness, has been particularly powerful…these guys have been an answer to prayer for me.’
‘it’s been…helpful as a place to be real with each other and…with God…It’s been good to meet in person when we’re allowed (sometimes around a fire-pit) but also online…its been good for a much needed laugh…’
‘It’s been about accountability – we can share our struggles in a confidential environment…’
Here are a few guidelines to help you get started. Then if you want to go deeper, CLICK HERE to read a fuller guide to how to approach these groups.
How can I start a group?
Often groups like these form most effectively along natural, organic relational lines. So ask yourself, who are you already close to, who do you naturally talk openly with? When you have one or more people in mind, simply invite them if they would like to form a group like this. Perhaps suggest you meet for a trial period to make sure it works. Once you have asked people to create a group, give them a copy of this guide. This everyone is starting in the same place. Note, micro-church groups should always be single-sex.
How often should we meet?
This is entirely up to you! its something to work out with the others in the group. Anything from twice a week to once per month can work. Usually, once every 1-2 weeks works well. It’s helpful if one person takes responsibility for arranging meeting times and zoom contact details, etc.
When and where should we meet?
This is entirely up to you; do whatever works for the group members. During lockdown, it may only be possible to meet online. With just two in the group, it’s possible to walk together during lockdown. When the rule of six returns, large groups can meet in gardens or parks. As lockdown lifts further, meeting in a café, pub, home or workplace are all good.
What should we do when we meet?
A great way to start is to simply take it in turns for each person to share and then to spend time praying for one another. Some groups continue to do this over an extended period. However, having a little structure in mind makes the group more focused. The more intentional these groups are, the more effective they will be in helping one another grow. Here are some guidelines. The essential goal of an intentional discipleship group is to answer these two questions for each person:
· What is God speaking to you right now?
· What are you going to do about it?
To best achieve this, roughly divide your time together into three thirds and aim for the following in each third…
Here, give each person chance to express something of their present reality: what is true for them right now good and bad, and might they see/sense God at work in or through their experience.
This part works best if you pick up where you left off last time. The goal is to end each meet up with each person identifying something they are going to do differently as a consequence of their time together. If that happened then start by asking one another how you have got on with that thing.
Then, asking additional questions is a great way to go deeper, for example:
· How have you seen/sensed/felt God at work in your life this week?
· Where have you experienced breakthrough, battle, frustration or failure this week?
· How have things been at home and with family?
· How have things been at work?
· How have things been at church?
Its important that these groups are a safe place that will foster vulnerability. So refrain from expressing judgement or evaluation. We are all learners together, failure and struggle are common to all. We must not expect perfection of ourselves or of others.
As vulnerability and trust grow, so will the depth and focus of the conversation. Here are some tips on having a great conversation:
· Keep in mind the overall goal: to help each other hear God and work out what to do about it
· Asking great questions is better than giving advice; limit your advice, instead, try to help other people hear God for themselves by considering helpful questions
· As trust grows, don’t be afraid to bring challenge
· Be open about your own struggles, victories, learning and growth as a disciple of Jesus. Sharing our lives in this way is a real gift to one another and is one of the most powerful ways of helping one another grow.
Maybe you can think of other tips.
In this part of the conversation, the goal is to help each person connect with God and gain a sense of what he might be saying. It’s sometimes enough to simply have a conversation with one another about what has been raised in the first section. If this is the case, then often part one above will flow seamlessly into part 2.
It can be helpful to use some outside material here to feed into the conversation, principally the Bible. Here are some ways you can do this:
· Agree that you will look at a Bible passage together each time – perhaps work your way through a Gospel. You don’t need to spend long each time, maybe 20 mins – simply read the passage and then consider together three questions:
What does this passage say about God?
What does it say about people?
Where is there a command to obey, an example to follow or a promise to trust?
· Agree that in between each meet up you are all going to read a section of scripture, say a few chapters or even a whole book. Then spend time when you meet discussing insights in response to the three questions above.
· Agree you will read a spiritual book together, reading a chapter each time and discussing insights you gain.
End this time by summarising what it is that God is saying to each other. It’s at this point that pausing to pray is an excellent idea. Pray specifically for each person in turn, pray in a way that arises directly out of how you sense God speaking to you.
Having identified what you think God is saying to one another, this is the time to consider what you are going to do about it. This is the most frequently overlooked step. If we are to be intentional about our growth, identifying what we are going to do about what God is saying is essential. Doing this together enables us to both encourage and hold one another accountable to our commitment. Ask one another to state what they are going to do differently as a result of your time together and agree to report back next time. If it doesn’t feel too heavy, write these things down as reminders. Here are some examples of what each person might commit to doing:
I am going to pray for my friend every day
I am going to invite my friend to Alpha
I am going to phone my mum and say sorry
I am going to buy a gift for my homegroup leader to say thank you
Next time I am asked to do something I am going to pray before saying ‘yes.’
When I next see my friend I am going to tell him/her about how I met Jesus
And so on, it could be one of any number of things.
If you want help to form groups, please let us know, and we will be glad to support you or help you find other people with whom you could meet.