Every disciple is called to make more disciples, and small groups are in the trenches of discipleship making. Small groups are fantastic places to learn, but more importantly, they are the best place to build authentic relationships and learn together. Creating an environment that elevates authentic relationships is a challenge, but a great example can be found in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church. Here are four small group tips from 1 Thessalonians:
#1. Continual Prayer
Paul told the Thessalonians that he continually thanked God and prayed for them (v. 1:2). For many, the time of prayer for a small group is the final box to check. It is the signal that it is time to go home. Prayer was prominent in Paul’s letter; he noted prayer at different times for different reasons. Paul wanted his readers to know he cared for them, and above all else, prayer was the most important way to care for someone. Building authentic relationships requires intentional prayer for and with one another.
#2. Making the Model
Paul noted that the Thessalonians had become imitators of them and the Lord (v. 1:6). They become the model to the believers in the surrounding communities as they shared the Lord’s message (v. 1:7-8). As Paul, Silas and Timothy discipled the Thessalonians; they did so with the intention that the Thessalonians would imitate them, and disciple their neighbors. As Small Group Point People, we must recognize the same principle; we are not just making disciples, we are making disciples who will make disciples.
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#3. It is More than a Message
As Small Group Leaders, we have the opportunity to share a message that will help others grow in their relationship with Christ. The message; or the curriculum of the group is a great tool, but discipleship takes more than a great curriculum. Discipleship requires a relationship; Paul, Silas, and Timothy cared for the Thessalonians, and because they loved them so much, they were delighted to share, not only the Gospel but their lives as well (v. 2:8). Building authentic relationships means taking the conversation outside of the study; talk about other hobbies or activities. Even better, check out some of those hobbies or activities together!
#4. Encouraging, Comforting, and Urging
As Small Group Point People strive to create an authentic environment, they should take note of the three terms that Paul used in his letter, “encouraging, comforting and urging” (v. 2:9). Authentic relationships require a willingness to share your life. And sharing your life means that leaders need to be present in both the good times and the rough times. Paul believed that a group of individuals should support and build one another up when they needed it the most. Paul provided encouragement and comfort as the Thessalonians were facing hardship and he urged them to stand firm, and live lives worthy of God (v. 2:9-12).
Published by Michael Grayston
Michael lives in Palm Bay, Florida with his wife and two kids. He serves CenterPointe church as the Next Steps and Multisite Pastor and is pursuing his Ed.D. in Ministry Leadership at Liberty University. Before full-time ministry, Michael spent over 10 years in healthcare leadership.