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When I first became a Christian, I wasn’t sure if I was qualified or gifted enough to serve within the church. Even after getting acquainted with the community, I continued to believe this for months until a leader in the church invited me one evening to help facilitate a breakout conversation during a small group. From there, another opportunity arose for me to become involved. And then another. Somewhere along the way, I began to realize where God was calling me to serve, but it all started with that first invitation.
Small groups offer an incredible environment to help build relationships within the church, but did you know that they also can be used to identify future leaders and equip its members to serve the community? According to Scripture, 1 Corinthians 12:7 informs us that everyone has at least one spiritual gift. In other words, each person is able to help bless the Kingdom of God in at least one way. While not everyone may be ready to become a lay minister today, the Holy Spirit is constantly working in each of your group members’ hearts. What if one of your group members is ready to start serving at your church, but they are not sure where to begin?
Step 1: Finding the Opportunity
The first step is to draft a list of activities that are available to do within your group meetings. Depending on the comfort level of your group members, this could range from something as small as leading a devotional, to something as large as being the point contact for an upcoming service project that the group is planning. When considering potential opportunities, resist the temptation to offload a task just for the sake of lightening your workload. Instead, draft a list of all potential opportunities that can be shared (except those that can only be completed by the small group leader).
Step 2: Identifying the Individual
When identifying and calling upon the first apostles, Jesus did not make a public announcement at the temple. Instead, He approached each of them directly and personally invited them. He affirmed that He saw something in them and noticed their willingness to be led by the Lord. While we aren’t selecting apostles here within our groups, the principle is similar: mass invites aren’t typically effective. Instead, take the time to prayerfully consider which individual you’d like to propose a potential opportunity to (From the list of activities you previously generated). If the Spirit is impressing a certain individual upon your heart, it is possible that the Spirit is also working in their heart at the same time to get them more involved. Your invitation to the person not only affirms and validates the presence of their spiritual gifts, but you also can become an agent of the Holy Spirit when sharing with the person that God may have something planned for them. The goal would not be to force anyone into a ministry opportunity, but rather to locate where God is already moving within the group and then to become the bridge that connects the individual to the opportunity.
Step 3: Coaching the Group Member
Once the opportunity is identified and the individual has volunteered, then you will be able to begin coaching that individual. Does this take time to guide someone through the completion of their task? Yes, but if the right person is identified with the best-matched spiritual gifts, it should take less time to coach the individual than the time you would have spent preparing (and doing) the task on your own. Through its small group ministry, the church can help promote a safe environment through which its group members feel comfortable enough to take risks and baby step into ministry endeavors that challenge them appropriately (according to the level of spiritual readiness that they find themselves in).
The Ripple Effect
The ripple effect can be powerful. By inviting a group member to do something as simple as leading a devotion, you could possibly be sowing a seed that inspires the person to grow into a disciple of Christ who then eventually mentors and impacts the lives of tens, or hundreds, or even thousands. After all, we must not underestimate the power of an invitation, for we only need to briefly reflect on the fact that the incredible size of the Christian church started with one person who extended personal invitations to only twelve.