You’re getting fat. Too many Ho Ho’s. Not enough exercise. You’re constantly sick and nearly anemic. If you don’t do something soon, this may turn into something really serious. Don’t take it personally—I’m talking about your group … well, many groups anyway.
When it comes to good health, small groups are a lot like people. We have to take care of the body, or something can go wrong. Here are seven tips to keep your group in great health.
1. Eat balanced meals. Your group needs a good balance of proteins (Bible study), starches (fellowship and support), vegetables (training and equipping), fruit (of the Spirit, that is—ministry to others and outreach). Too much of one category while neglecting the others can eventually cause sickness.
Also, you can’t live on fast food or junk food. A fast-food diet consists of five minutes of prayer and ten minutes of Bible study.
Fellowship is necessary in a group, but it should not crowd out the essentials. Junk food consists of “careless words” (Matthew 12:36), “meaningless words” (1 Timothy 1:6), “godless chatter” (2 Timothy 2:16), and all kinds of foolish talk (Proverbs 10:14, 19-21; Ecclesiastes 10:12-14; Esphesians 5:4). Those contain too much fat and not enough nutrients for a healthy body.
2. Get your RDA of vitamins and minerals. A healthy group gets its recommended daily allowance of Bible study and prayer. That means that for a group to continue to grow, the individual group members must practice these disciplines daily. As each person grows stronger in his or her relationship with God, the whole body is strengthened.
3. Get plenty of exercise. If all you do is eat, you’ll eventually get so fat you can’t get out of your chairs. A group that constantly eats is an inward-focused group. That focus feels good for a while, but it’s an unhealthy habit in the long run. You’ve got to put the food you eat—especially those proteins—into action.
There are several types of exercises that will give your group a healthy, outward focus. One type is isometric. This includes activities you can do right in your chairs: worship and prayer. Isometric exercises are vertical in nature. The other type of exercise—serving others—is horizontal in nature.
One warning: Do not try to exercise without eating a good, balanced meal first. In other words, you need to have the meat of the Word and prayer, the nutrients that come from training and equipping, plus the support you get from fellowship before you can effectively minister to others.
4. Get plenty of rest. Even a healthy group needs to take a break once in a while to rest, rejuvenate, and refresh. A group that does not get enough rest will burn out. Rest is an essential function in a healthy body.
5. Practice good hygiene. A group that doesn’t take care of itself begins to stink. Group hygiene—planning for the future, talking about problems, working on schedules, determining what the “rules” are—may seem like little things, but if things aren’t taken care of on regular basis, the group is susceptible to all kinds of diseases.
6. Get regular checkups. How do you know if your small group is in good health or not? The same way you know if your own body is—you monitor the symptoms.
Regular checkups—that is, group evaluation—can help a group avoid problems later. When you conduct a group checkup, you examine all the parts of the body to be sure everything is in good health. You ask questions and allow members to talk about how they feel. (Click here for a free small group health assessment.)
If you find any problems, you start fixing them right away. Sometimes, you just need a small shot of enthusiasm. Other times you need major surgery. But if you don’t evaluate regularly, you’ll never know.
7. Be prepared for the occasional emergency. Even healthy groups sometimes have a problem. The best thing to do when this happens is to take care of it immediately. If you notice a sudden problem in your group, call 911 right away. Deal with the situation yourself if possible; but, if not, call in your small group coach or minister to give advice or help you handle it.
Don’t let problems—such as chronic lateness or absence; unhealthy attitudes; sinful, unrepentant lifestyles; or lack of growth—fester until you have a life-threatening situation on your hands. Accidents, illnesses, even major catastrophes are part of life. A strong small group, with the support of the church’s small group ministry team, can deal with them in healthy ways as they come.
Too many groups die because they did not take good care of themselves. Don’t let it happen to your group.
I wrote this article for SmallGroups.com way back in September 1996. This was the first time I thought about or wrote about the health of a small group. I had actually forgotten about this article until just recently when I was reading articles on SmallGroups.com, the ministry I founded in 1995, now owned and operated by Christianity Today.
See more about the vital signs of a healthy small group in my new book, Small Group Vital Signs: Seven Indicators of Health That Make Groups Flourish, which was released last week.