The first commandment for small groups is this: “I am the Lord your God … you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath . . .” (Exodus 20:2-4).

How can your group live out this first and most fundamental commandment? The first thing to do is to identify the false gods that can so easily be placed on the throne of your group. Remember that God will not share his throne (see verse 5)!

Here are what I consider the top 10 small group idols:

  1. Community: Community is a vital element of group life, of course, but I’ve seen groups place their commitment to community above their commitment to God.
  2. Consumers: This is closely related to #1, but with a twist. People often choose a group for what they will personally get out of it. They put themselves and their wants above God’s will in the group.
  3. Challenges: Are there people (or just one person) whose issues dominate your time together each week? These are usually self-focused people who believe they must be the center of attention. That’s God’s place.
  4. Curriculum (or other Content): What we study can help us grow as disciples, but Christ, not your curriculum, should always be the main focus. (This is a dangerous idol, because it is so sneaky. Be careful, because curriculum-centeredness can easily draw you away from being Christ-centered!)
  5. Cause: In today’s missional culture, this one also can become a devious false god. Be all about Christ’s mission and purpose for you, but don’t put your causes above him!
  6. Church-wide Programs/Campaigns:  I may get letters on this one, but I see this crafty idol at work more and more lately. As a church-based small group you are accountable to your church leadership. But don’t allow the latest program, project, or campaign to sit on the throne of your group. Remember, wherever two or three come together in Jesus’ name–not in the name of some Christian celebrity–Christ will be in your midst.
  7. Cookies: Do group members compete for who brings the best snacks? Do you focus too much on food?
  8. Calendars: Are group members’ busy schedules more important than their commitment to Christ and the group? What do your calendars and meeting frequency say about who or what is on the throne of your lives?
  9. Children/Child Care: I have witnessed countless groups struggle over issues centered around children and what to do with them as the group meets. Some families allow their children to become idols in their lives, keeping Christ and spiritual growth a distant second–at best. I’ve also seen group members argue vehimently over what to do with their kids diring group time, and the tension ripped the group apart. Our kids are important parts of our lives, but we can’t let them sit on the throne!
  10. Controlling Leader: The leader is a member who has the God-given responsibility to help guide the group as God has called him or her to do. The leader is not the center of the group in a Christ-centered group. Some leaders need to step off the throne, and let Christ alone occupy that position.

As you can see, most of these are not bad things when kept in their proper places. But none of them can share the throne of your life or your group. Dethrone them by putting Christ back in his rightful place in your group. Seek first his kingdom, and all these other things will be taken care of as well.

 What small group idols would you add to this list? (It doesn’t have to start with a C!)

For more on this important topic, see Chapter 1 of my new book, Small Group Vital Signs: Seven Indicators of Health that Make Groups Flourish.

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Michael Mack has led Small Group Leadership full-time since 2012, but has been involved in small group ministry for more than 25 years.

He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. Their family small group, which includes their four young adult children, has much potential (and much anticipation) for future growth and multiplication. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of great friends who participate together in various charity rides.

See the “About Michael Mack” page under About Us for more about him.

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One Comment

  1. PastorMason

    July 23, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Great post here! How about "cliques." By definition "cliques" are idols because they are contrary to almost every purpose of a small group, and yet they can sometimes be found in our small group.


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