Meals: To Eat or Not to Eat at Small Group

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Food is a centerpiece of the Bible. One modern writer even insists that Jesus “eats his way through the New Testament.” Acts 2:46, a small group staple, tells us, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”

Confession: I am the small group director at my church, Good News Church, and my small group does not eat at our weekly small group meeting. Gasp!

Here is why: “Small Group” is not a weekly event--it’s, to borrow the oft-used phrase, “doing life together.” Last I checked, doing life together doesn’t mean spending time together only once per seven days! So how and when do we break bread together? We share meals throughout the week--coffee at the Hyppo, popcorn at a Flagler basketball game, coffee (and maybe a muffin) at the Hyppo, a dinner date at someone’s house, a picnic at the Fort, lunch at Flavors, pizza on a Friday night, and coffee (and maybe a muffin and a bagel (possibly a popsicle)) at the Hyppo.

The dynamics of each small group are different. For example, the rhythm of my current small group makes including a meal very difficult. After we catch up and greet one another, we start with a song and then jump into discussion. There has been a ton of interest in discussing the weekly readings, so our group, which is on the large side (20+), is eager to discuss what they have been reading all week. So between our conversations about Scripture, Sunday’s message, and all the other items provided in The Study, our discussions can last a long time! Then when we split up to pray, we almost always go well past our 15-minute mark, typically going over time by another 10-15 minutes or so.

That said, we certainly encourage you to share meals, every week if possible. The key is determining what is priority to your small group. For example, if life and kids and circumstances don’t allow for a weekly meal together, know that you are afforded grace. Rather than worrying about getting your small group meeting “right,” simply be intentional about creating life overlap with your small group members. Spend enough time with people and eventually you will share a meal...which will lead to other meals.   

Have other ideas about meals at small group? Send them to tim@goodnewsloves.com.  

House to House--20:20 Dinners

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In the understatement of the year, small group leaders do a lot! For all of their efforts leading and cultivating, they deserve to be treated well and appreciated.

For several years, the small group ministry at Good News Church (St. Augustine, FL) gathered our leaders three to five times per year in an event called “The Feast,” where we would eat, sing, pray, and celebrate. Taken from Isaiah 55, The Feast was a beautiful event intended to show appreciation for our leaders and create excitement for the upcoming season/year.

But we wanted something better, something more intimate, something that would look and feel like a small group. Inspired by Paul’s “house-to-house” ministry in Acts 20:20, we decided to move the dinner from the church gym to a house—our house, literally! In 2019, rather than hosting a quarterly meal for 70, our small group directors will host six meals for 10-12 leaders over the course of three months.  

Called “20:20 Dinners,” these get-togethers provide meaningful interactions and camaraderie between small group leaders normally never known to one another. We break bread together at one table, hear each other sing, pray for one another, and discuss best practices for leading a small group.

While it’s still very early in 2019, this change has already provided benefits to our ministry and appears to be a change we will be happy we made.  


Engaging the Church Body Throughout the Week

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Last year, 2018 brought a handful of significant changes to the small group ministry at Good News Church (St. Augustine, FL). One of those changes was providing our church body with materials to interact with throughout the week. While Sunday worship is clearly an important aspect of our walk with Christ, it is critical we as churches continue to find ways to engage members during the work week. To that extent, we created a document called, “The Study,” a 56-page booklet designed completely in-house. Our Pastor for Leadership Development, Dave Aucremann, creates the content; staff members and a Gospel Partner edit and revise content; and our Communications Director, Holly Sipprell, designs the layout and sends it to be published. The finished product is a polished and professional looking journal-sized document.  

Each Study, which covers four weeks' worth of messages, is broken into three parts:

1.) Personal Study: We provide a guided reading plan through a book of the Bible and ask our members to read, pray, and share the Word.

2.) Small Group Discussion Cue: Our small group discussions are message-based, but in addition to questions about the message, we also include an ice-breaker and questions about our personal time in the Word.

3.) Reach section: This area provides coaching on how to spark gospel conversations in everyday situations.

The feedback to The Study has been overwhelmingly positive. Some of the encouraging feedback we have gotten includes but is not limited to the following:

1.) The Study, sleek in look, has become a conversation piece out in public and a way to invite people to a church service.

2.) The personal study section has allowed our small groups to keep in more regular contact throughout the week, often exchanging group texts about the reading.

3.) Members who travel during the week feel more connected. (The Study is also posted in PDF format on our website.)  

4.) A level of accountability nearly always motivates people. In this way, The Study has effectively become a workout partner. To illustrate this, some of our new believers stated that this was the first time they had ever read an entire book of the Bible. Additionally, some members who had fallen out of the habit of reading the Word were motivated by The Study to restart that discipline.

5.) The level of buy-in from small group leaders increased because the material was well developed and packaged professionally.  

As always, there are no doubt many other benefits we simply have not heard about from our members. The Study is certainly not without imperfections, but for a ministry whose goal is threefold, to help members 1.) become disciple-makers, 2.) experience gospel transformation, and 3.) care for one another, The Study is helping us live out our mission.

Don’t have the budget for regularly publishing this kind of document? No problem. Start small and keep it online.  Don’t worry about images or thematic elements. Roll it out and see if a member of your church would be interested in using his/her skills to enhance the document.