Small Group Ministry

 God created the family as the fundamental unit of society. That is where children learn what society expects from them and how they are to act. They learn right from wrong by the signals they get from adults. If they do something and get punished, or even scolded for doing something, they learn not to do it. On the other hand, if they get praised or rewarded for actions, they repeat them. Children learn by watching adults and by trying to imitate them. In a stable family, they have close relationships, which last for a long time enabling them to learn to follow their parent’s example. If it is a wholesome family, they develop the values and actions, which will create a wholesome family. Those who grow up in dysfunctional families learn to be dysfunctional from watching those around them and learn to see that behavior as normal. They then create a dysfunctional family or may avoid developing any family at all depending on whether they felt it was a positive or negative experience.. If a child grows up in an unstable family, where the adults change frequently, they lack the close long-term relationships needed to form any values. They will then attach to someone, either in the family or outside it and draw their values from them if possible, or simply develop a mixture of values that they see that work for them. Our society has disrupted families by encouraging divorce and both premarital and extramarital sex. In addition, it has encouraged divorce by requiring that husbands leave the home before society will help the woman. Many families have been dysfunctional for several generations and many people have never seen a well functioning family. Many of my students are shocked to learn that I have been married to the same woman for 40 years. They don’t know anyone married that long.

If children are to learn wholesome values, they must have a close relationship with someone who exhibits wholesome behavior where they can observe them and imitate them. By breaking up the family, society has destroyed the fundamental way children learn and tried to replace it with training from society as a whole. Experience has shown that those close relationships do not develop adequately if a group exceeds 12-16 people and the close relationships must be sustained over several years to develop the closeness needed to pass on values. Such conditions do not develop in a classroom of 20-30 children, which changes teachers and many of its students every few years. As a result, many children develop a small group of friends from which they draw their values, since they often spend more time with them in school than they spend with their parents at home. Those with similar values will tend to draw together and the members will develop a consensus of values. However since members will hold a large number of values, members may hold some values not held by the group at large. While the group may allow some leeway on values that the group feels are unimportant, members will generally have to conform to the core values that the group holds as the price for remaining in the group. These groups are usually fairly small with girls and often will consist of a small cluster of pairs, while boys will generally form larger groups of up to 10-12, with little direct pairing. (see “Relationships” in Book 2A of Truly In The World, But Not Of It)

The church has managed to protect the family to some degree and uphold wholesome values, but many churches are being infiltrated by liberal values allowing the breakdown of the family within the church. If we are to save our society and restore it to stability, we must rebuild the nuclear family and the support system that sustains it. While society crumbles around us, some churches continue to hold up the sanctity of life, sexual purity, and the value of marriage, however while there is a core of dedicated people in those churches who uphold Christian values, outside that core is a large number of people who attend the church but do not accept those values. Many churches today are buying into the secular world’s view that all you need is a good program to teach people how to live. I have seen denominations promote a long succession of programs to help churches grow and prosper but they all fail if they do not help the people develop the close relationships needed. While programs can teach people how to act, it cannot provide the emotional and spiritual nurturing needed for people to develop healthy emotional and spiritual maturity. Sermons and teaching are needed to help members clarify the reasons they do what they do but the core values are learned from watching those who are looked up to by the group. Unfortunately, many churches look up to and promote those with money and business contacts rather than those of strong spiritual character and many who are drawn into the church follow their example rather than the Christian values proclaimed by Scripture. In building small groups, it is important that group leaders be chosen who are of good Christian character and understand the importance of their example because group members will look up to them and imitate their example.(see “The Living Presence” in “The Servant’s Heart” ) We must start by supporting our families by developing close relationships so we will know when members are experiencing problems, so we can support those people in their time of need. In addition, we must build relationships within the church that will enable us to help those from dysfunctional families learn how to build and sustain a stable marriage and to teach them the values needed Small group ministries can provide the close relationships needed to recognize problems and provide the resources needed to overcome those problems. (See “Relationships” in the second book of my series “Truly In The World, But Not Of It-Part-A)