The Rocky films are a success story, and they also mirror the life of our small groups. In Rocky I our hero is new, young and vulnerable. He begins to figure out what his goals in life are. In Rocky II he begins to pursue his career as a boxer to see what it can do for him. He also confronts his conflicts with his rival from the first film, Apollo Creed. By Rocky III however, our hero has grown lazy. Rocky is too relaxed and gets used to the comfort of his life. He has become selfish and ignorant of the vision he set out to achieve.
Our small groups can become a bit like Rocky in Rocky III if we aren’t careful. We can get too comfortable and too focused on looking inwards at ourselves rather than having our eyes set on Christ and on our goals. Things come to a head in Rocky III when he is challenged by a real contender, a bully, Clubber Lang. Rocky loses because he is too arrogant to train properly. He loses everything and the rest of the film is dedicated to Rocky’s rebirth.
At the ‘norming' stage, small groups have found ownership and it can be tempting, at this point,to get comfortable. One common issue with small groups at this stage is that they begin to function more as a group hangout that serves themselves rather than as a moving piece of the body of Christ. But this means when a real contender, a real challenge hits the group, they can have a weak spot and may even crumble.
The goal at this stage therefore, is to invigorate and edify the group. Give the group direction. At this point the group must switch from looking inwards at themselves and begin to look outwards at the needs of others. The focus, as always, is Christ, but not just to look towards Christ. The aim is to be Christ-like, looking beyond the needs of the group and instead looking selflessly at the needs of others.
The leader is really important at this stage. It is your role, as the leader, to initiate this change in direction and lens. Turning the small group’s gaze towards Jesus also means turning their attention towards their gifts and how to use them; looking outwards as a group and strategizing evangelism. At this stage the majority of the time should be spent calling out gifts, applying the word to direct attention to Christ, and exploring how Christ’s power is at work in the group.
“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to use them accordingly: if someone has the gift of prophecy, [let him speak a new message from God to His people] in proportion to the faith possessed; if service, in the act of serving; or he who teaches, in the act of teaching; or he who encourages, in the act of encouragement; he who gives, with generosity; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy in caring for others, with cheerfulness.”
Dive into scripture. Call out gifts. Point to Jesus. And plan to put this part of the body of Christ into motion for the glory of God!