Summer is almost over and the kids are back in school. As the seasons change, so will the rhythms of church life, with many church-sponsored or church-related small groups starting back up. If you’re in a small group, you would do well to ask this question: What does a healthy small group look like?
The Bible is filled with answers to this question. One such place is found in Acts 2:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).
From this famous text, we see (at least) 9 marks of a healthy small group:
1. A healthy small group is marked by biblical teaching.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching.”
Sure, games and ice-breakers and extended chatter is fine (and often recommend). But at some point, the Word should be opened and shared.
2. A healthy small group is marked by prayer.
“And they devoted themselves . . . to prayer.”
Ask God to bless your group, to bless your people, to bless your city. Ask, confess, and give thanks. And throw in some supplications. Prayer should be a big part of a small group. After all, how strong will your group be without it?
3. A healthy small group is marked by fellowship.
“And they devoted themselves . . . to fellowship.”
Conversations, laughter, admonitions, exhortations, encouragement. You know, fellowship. In a healthy small group, fellowship is prominent.
4. A healthy small group is marked by generosity.
“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
Look out for people in your group who are struggling to make ends meet. All that we have is from God, and we should seek to be generous to those in our groups who have less.
5. A healthy small group is marked by consistency.
“And day by day, attending the temple together…”
I doubt any group can meet daily, but I’m sure most groups can meet weekly. Showing up when you feel like it or only every once in a while doesn’t help anyone. Groups should be a priority and marked by consistency.
6. A healthy small group is marked by gladness.
“They received their food with glad and generous hearts.”
Food or snacks or drinks or whatever, our hearts should be filled with gladness. Small group should feel like a blessing, not a burden; like a delight, not just a duty.
7. A healthy small group is marked by praise.
“Praising God and having favor with all the people…”
The disciples praised God, something God demands. Why? John Piper explains: “God wants your praise not because he won’t be fully God until he gets it, but because you won’t be fully glad until you give it.”
8. A healthy small group is marked by growth.
“And the Lord added to their number.”
If the same people have been in your group for four years with no growth, it might be time to rethink the mission and purpose of the group.
9. A healthy small group is marked by the presence of God.
There might not be words used in this text that explicitly says this, but it’s obvious. The disciples were marked by the presence of God. Our small groups should be, too.
There’s way more than just these nine marks. But what a great place to start. Your group won’t be perfect. And some people will seem insufferable at times. But by looking to Jesus and the early church, you set yourself up — and your group — to have a fruitful and faithful time together this fall.
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