My first experience as a small group leader happened when I was in my early twenties. I had found my way back to the Church after a few years in which my faith had all but disappeared. Not really knowing what I should do; I chose to do whatever I could. I went back to that Church’s small group and became a leader, helping anywhere there was a need. After a few months I was asked if I wanted to lead a group of high school boys, and I accepted. And did a terrible job at it. Though that is probably me being harsh on myself. The fact was I did not understand what it meant to lead in a small group; or how to even go about it. I did not feel I had anything to offer. But above all I felt inadequate. I felt like a mess because of the things I had done.
Not much really came from it I think. My co-leader and I did our best to try to engage our handful of guys for the short time we would meet. But ultimately we ended up just hanging out. It would be years before I would find myself in that position again. I went through another period in which I had stepped away from my faith. But even there, God met me again. And after two years of serving and dealing with all the issues in my life; I began to feel the call to lead again. And I ignored it for the better part of a year. The old insecurites would always return whenever I would even think about it. But finally I decided that I could not keep ignoring the call that God had laid on my heart.
So I finally relented. The only thing I needed was a co-leader I could trust and who had experience leading. It’s amazing looking back now how God orchestrated people and events. But soon after I made the decision to step into the role, I had a co-leader, and a group. For the past two and half years we have led a group of young adult men and we meet weekly in a bar. For me the transition of serving in ministry in the background, to stepping out into the world and leading a group in such a place, was definitely hard to get used to. But I never could have guessed the blessing it would be in my life.
Last year, as I was wrapping up a study on Acts, I felt that the next step for our group was for me and my co-leader to begin sheparding the men in our group to take an active role. One of our goals for our small group has been to equip our guys with the knowledge and foundation they need, to strenghten their character and build up their faith. As we have been going through this process I have been thinking about those doubts I used to have. Since small groups and house churches are a big part of what we believe in here at Rogue Millenials, I wanted to share part of what I have learned in my journey. And to encourage everyone.
What does it mean to lead in a small group/house church?
First and foremost I believe it means personally investing in people’s lives. In the age of megachurches, personal relationships are far harder to cultivate within a large church. The smaller setting makes it easier for people to let others in, and open up in turn. And second, it means to facilitate discussion. Much of the growth I have experienced in the past five years has occured in these smaller settings. In the discussions I have had with men and women who grapple with the same questions and doubts I have.
How does one lead a small group/house church?
Well, you just do it. I have seen no formula for it, not really. You don’t need to go through seminary, or have been a pastor. The way I teach is different from the way my co-leader goes about it, yet both work. How we teach is not as important as being invested in the people around us, and being invested in what we are doing.
What do I have to offer?
Everything. This was one of the hardest parts for me. And I think it keeps people from taking that next step. Whatever you have done, wherever you have been, you have something to offer. Your experience, your insight, your mistakes; all of it can help someone else. I have sat in silence many times, only for my walls to be broken down by someone opening up and sharing their heart. And I have seen it happen in others countless times. None of us is perfect, we all make mistakes. We say it endlessly in church. Yet very often we act different in front of others. The church wasn’t created for perfect people. There are no perfect people within it. Or anywhere for that matter. It is a place for broken people to find salvation, and healing.
We are beginning to wrap up our current study in our small group. And It has been amazing to see everyone who has taught and lead our discussions grow while taking an active role in our group. Ultimately growth happens when you are actively engaged in what you are doing, that is as true of our faith as it is of anything. And all of us need a foundation on our faith strong enough to stand on when we face the world. Within these smaller settings we can find the space to build up one another. To engage in discussion and grow further in our faith. And to find our voice and identity in Christ to be able to share our faith with the world.
We have not been called to a passive faith, to only take in and never pour out. My encouragement to anyone who feels discouraged by their experience with the church, or stuck going nowhere in your faith; is that you are not alone. You can create a space in which to share and grow in your faith with others. And God can and will meet you there. Because ultimately that is his church. Not a building, but believers coming together in faith.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV