I attended my first small group as a freshman in college in an effort to explore what I believed about Christianity. I wasn't sure I would go back after the first meeting, but the group leader took notice of me and, I imagine, how uncomfortable I was with being there. After the group, she asked me if I'd like to get lunch together, and since I was eager to make friends, we made a plan to meet up later that week. As the year went on she continued to invite me into her life and into a relationship with Jesus.
When I think back on that time I realize how intentional she was in her relationship with me. She discipled me as she came to know me well, and she developed a clear sense of what steps I needed to take to grow in my young faith.
Discipleship within our small groups doesn't have to be overwhelming. It is often just noticing those around us and being intentional with them as we help them take steps in their faith. The primary text on discipleship in the New Testament is found in Matthew 28:19-20:
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Jesus' commission begins with two imperatives: "go" and "make". A disciple-maker is guided by intentional action as they go and make disciples - teaching them to obey the commands of Christ. And yet, there is also the promise that Christ will be present. As we strive to help our people grow we can also trust that he will do His part.
I know from personal experience that sometimes as a small group leader, it's easy to just get into the rhythm of meeting weekly and not take time to really notice how your members are (or aren't) growing in the character, ways, and mission of Christ. This month, take some time to pause and ask God to show you how to intentionally encourage members in your group. It might be meeting with the youngest believer in your group for dinner each week right before small group to give time to speak into his life. But it might also start small - perhaps sending an encouraging note to a guy you know has been struggling or asking the girl who seems uncomfortable out to lunch. Allow God to show you who needs to be noticed and invited into a deeper relationship with you and with Him. Perhaps in a year or two the uncomfortable girl will be leading a small group of her own because of your intentional investment in her life.
Director of Adult Life, Oakland Campus