Do you remember being a toddler? Can you recall those early few years where everything was still so new? Thinking back, those years were so full of wonder weren’t they? But they were also full of terrible tantrums. These are the years of most crucial development, but they are also the years with the most screaming, shouting and crying.
Now, I would hope that no small group would ever consist of tantrums and throwing your dinner on the carpet, but there will be a teething period; a time where members need to adjust and settle. Everyone needs space to find who they are in the group context and learn to see eye to eye with one another.
This is the childhood period of a small group. In this stage the goal is to move on from the reason for the groups existence and away from the small group’s forming. Instead, move toward understanding what the group can do for them as a collective and as individuals.
The group leader, as always, plays a crucial role here. Encourage! Encourage! And encourage some more! Give the group motivation and drive to cast vision of specific things they can gain and learn together. Prompt them to confront conflicts in a healthy and positive way; don’t let them grow. Confirm with them that it is not ‘your’ small group which they simply attend. It is their small group to own and shape. This is also the stage of the small group where members are committing to the group and to their relationships with one another. Encourage this, build up trust between members. This doesn’t mean taking up crazy trust exercises or shooting apples off each other's heads. Instead, seek common ground.
We grow trust and we grow friendships by spending time together in a community of worship. The goal is to seek honesty amongst the group and to worship together. Always bring the focus back to Jesus. Bring it back to what unites the group. You are not just a group of mates meeting for dinner and games. You are there for Jesus and to grow in relationship with him. Therefore, the more time you spend in worship, whether sung worship or prayer or something creative, the more you emphasise unity in the group. And, once there is unity, the group can claim ownership.
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” - Matthew 6:33
Therefore, if we first seek the kingdom in worship, unity, ownership and trust will follow and each member will gain what they seek from the small group.