Healthy small groups are like Tootsie Pops. The most important part is what’s at it’s center. I was thinking about this analogy and the tract that contrasts two ways of living life, represented by two circles: the self-directed and Christ-centered life. Here’s the illustration from the Campus Crusade web site:

What’s at the center of these circles determines the kind of life you have. What if these circles represented your small group? Who’s on the throne there?

Is your group …

  • leader-centered?
  • content-centered (focused on curriculum or a certain study or author)?
  • challenge-centered (focused on a group member’s or the group’s issues)?
  • cause-centered?

There’s nothing wrong with any of these, of course, but a healthy group is focused on Christ and his presence, power, purposes, and plans.

In his blog on Organic Group Formation, my good friend Randall Neighbour provides some great diagrams contrasting unhealthy and healthy group formation. Check these out and, if you want to read more, see Randall’s post:

These show how a group should form, and in my new book, The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership, I discuss in much more depth how a group can form or re-form around Christ. This is, I believe, “central” to a healthy, strong, growing small group.

Why do so many small groups fail to bear much fruit? Because we’ve been focusing on a lot of other things rather than Christ. Jesus promised that whenever we gather together in his name, or for his purposes, he will be there among us (Matthew 18:20). And if he is among us, he will bring transformation. And if his purposes truly are our purposes, we will be making, baptizing, and teaching disciples. And if he is present, his power will be at work in unexpected ways; he’ll do more than we can ask or imagine in and through our groups!

I’ve seen many small groups take a lot of licks trying to do group life centered on things other than Christ. So, here’s the question:

“How many licks will it take to get to the Christ-directed center of your small group?”

How are you doing at making Christ’s presence real in your group(s)? How are you keeping him at the center? How are you staying focused on him and his purposes for you?

I’ll write more on this first sign of a healthy group in my next blog …

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Michael Mack has been involved in small group ministry as a pastor, writer, trainer, and speaker for more than 25 years. He founded in 1995 and started Small Group Leadership in 2012. He became the 12th editor of Christian Standard magazine in 2017 and continues to speak in churches about small groups, discipleship, and leadership. He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. They have four young adult children. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of friends. See the "About Michael Mack" page under About Us for more about him.

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One Comment

  1. Steve H.

    November 13, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    I liked the embryo concept of life group development. The dynamic of becoming more christ-like as an individual is vitally linked to being a part of a group who is intentional about becoming more christ-like. The only way to experience christ fully is in the context of experiencing him with others.


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