“We were created for community.” –It’s a phrase I say all the time at Awaken, and that’s evident throughout Scripture. After all, according to Genesis 1:26, God created us in His image, and God Himself is a community. So, it would only make sense that the most accurate way that we can reflect His image would be from within community. Today we discussed the why, when, and how of launching, structuring, and growing small groups within a church.

If you know me, I’m passionate about this subject, so it was fun to talk about. We began class by discussing the reason behind small groups, which admittedly, was something I didn’t fully grasp until just a couple years ago. I didn’t grow up going to churches that had small groups or emphasized them, so I didn’t really feel the need to implement them. I knew the church needed them, but I didn’t personally feel the need…until I got involved! Now I love them!

We began our discussion on the why and how with a video from my good friend, Josh Bowers, the Small Groups Pastor at Fresh Life Church in Montana. I learned a lot from their structure and vision for groups as we were launching ours, and theirs have been very successful, so it was great to hear from Josh.

After the video, we discussed the sermon-based small group structure of Awaken Groups, how we train leaders and co-leaders, what a semester of groups looks like, and how we utilize the website and other technology to enhance groups. We also covered some key lessons I’ve learned and challenges we’ve faced along the way…

Start with your vision. Vision defines structure.

This is one principle that applies not only to small groups, but to many other things as well. The what determines the how. Beginning with the vision helps you to define how you’re going to get to the goal. One of the questions that was asked was about any of the negative sides of sermon-based small groups. I’m not aware of any negative aspects of it because they help us to fulfill the vision of the groups: the social aspect and the application aspect.

Cut the competition.

If you looked at an Awaken events calendar, you’d notice a clump of events over winter break and a clump over summer break, but not much during semesters of Awaken Groups. There’s a reason for that. Americans are naturally busy people, and don’t have time to commit to their families, jobs, church, and small group, while also attending other programs and events. Although the extracurricular programs and events can be good, often times the good things can compete against the best things. At Awaken, this realization led to a complete overhaul of our calendar of events, and even led to the end of our Wednesday night service (Shocking, I know. Get over it, and get in a group!).

Satan hates small groups.

Although Awaken Groups is the place where we see the deepest growth, it’s also a place where some of the greatest attack and division can stem from. We cover each semester of Awaken Groups in prayer, and recognize that especially in areas where God is moving deeply in people’s lives, Satan will kick back. My philosophy is this: if Satan hates it and is trying to stop it, I must be doing the right thing! In fact, if he hates it, it must glorify God, and I want to do it even more! I wanted to remind the students that small groups, along with many other aspects of ministry, is a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual means.