By Bill Tenny-Brittian

One of the most disheartening thing I’ve noticed in most church’s small group programs is the lack of life-changing that goes on. The vast majority of the participants who attend small groups leave in about the same state as when they came, except that they may be just a little more educated on one topic or another.

I believe most small group leaders really want their small groups to make a real difference in people’s lives, they just don’t know what to do differently. Although I’ll be leading a two-and-a-half day summit on this very topic (more information here), here are a couple of pointers you can put into place this week at your small group that will begin making a difference in people’s lives.

  1. Practice Makes Perfect. We’re still living in a nation where the majority of the inhabitants still believe that if we study the right books, we’ll live better lives. If you want proof, check out the self-help section of Barnes and Noble or peruse the New York Times Best Seller’s list. We’re a nation of self-help junkies who keep hoping if we would just learn enough, our behaviors would follow. But not so. It’s not what we know—it’s what we do that changes lives. So, this week, when you’re looking at the application section of your small group curriculum, encourage your fellow participants to make a commitment to actually do something about what they’ve experienced in the group. Then take notes on what each person said they’d do so that next week you can ask them whether they did what they said they’d do, and if they did, how did that work for them.
  2. Stop Praying For Each Other. Yes, you heard me right. In most small groups, if they’ve set aside a specific prayer time, the majority of the time will be spent talking about the prayer requests followed by one or two people praying who will pray aloud so no one else has to. But when we do that, we’re not helping one another take responsibility for their own prayer requests. It’s much easier to ask others to pray for those on our prayer lists and we perceive that it’s much more difficult to do the praying ourselves. But praying aloud is not a chore and it shouldn’t be intimidating. Prayer is talking with God. Out-loud prayer is talking with God while others are there, sort of like the proverbial cocktail party where there is a lively conversation going on between two people, but there are five or six people standing there listening. But so long as we’ll let “Christians” off the hook from doing their own praying, we’re not helping the cause. So, this week, when it comes time for prayer, don’t let the group “talk about” their prayer requests. Instead, tell them that if they have a prayer request, they’ll need to bring it up during the prayer time and the rest of the group can then add their prayers to the one they made.

Just these two things alone will help make a real difference in the lives of those in your small group.