Meaningful Change in Small Groups

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Why do you have small groups at your church? What meaningful impact do you seek to make through small group participation?

I recently read a book about effective non-profits called Forces for Good written by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant. The authors studied effective non-profits in order to learn how groups affect social change. They discovered effective non-profits have a clear understanding of what change they are trying to make. For instance, Habitat for Humanity builds houses but Habitats really seeks to build a movement of people who are concerned about poverty and housing issues. They discovered climbing on ladders and hammering wood together produced a heart change in volunteers. Habitat volunteers began to care more about issues of poverty, which was evidenced through changes in voting and giving. 

This caught my attention. I tested this idea on Coffee Break. I wondered, what is the social impact of Coffee Break? What meaningful change are we working towards as we organize a ministry or lead a group?

Coffee Break is a small group Bible discovery approach that works brilliantly for both discipleship and evangelism. That’s what we do. The small group and Bible discovery is action, like getting people to build houses.  

Spiritual transformation is the outcome.

It happens in three ways. First, Coffee Break participants move from passive (no Bible engagement) to active (Bible engagement). Many people in our pews never open their Bible. They listen to the pastor. They read a devotional where someone else tells them what the text says and means. In a Coffee Break group people read the text, answer questions and then talk about what they discovered together. In this setting, they actively engage Scripture and meet God through his Word.

Second, people shift their spiritual practices from alone to together. In the group environment, they learn together, share ideas and build community. I know from personal experience that I gain a deeper and wider knowledge of Scripture when I talk with others about it. And, I have witnessed those ah ha moments of others in groups.

Third, Coffee Break is uniquely designed to be move ministry from within the church to with the community. Most Bible study materials are intended to be used within the church. They use church language and experience. Coffee Break materials use a simple, skeleton of questions that engage people directly with the text. No previous experience is required. It is designed to work with people that have never read the Bible before and the long time Christian. As people read the Bible together, something happens. They grow spiritually, they love each other, and they can’t help but invite others.

I reflected on a recent small group experience using those three shifts. In what ways did group members move from passive to active Bible engagement? How did the group experience enhance their understanding of scripture? In what ways did we see our group engaged the mission of God? 

How about the small groups at your church or your own small group? What social change or meaningful impact are you working towards?

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