How to Take Your Small Group to a New Level Spiritually (Part One)

When you look at your small group or Sunday school class, you must ask the question, “Where do I want my group to be by the end of this year?”AdobeStock 17116331 a
I hate to say it, but most teachers or small group leaders don’t have a plan to move their students from point A to point Z.
This is very common in the church, and I was guilty of it as a children’s pastor. It was really easy to give my teachers a teaching guide and a resource kit with very little guidance from that moment on.

About 16 years ago, I began to change my approach after looking at two commands from the New Testament.

First, the number one command of the Lord is the Great Commission in Matthew 18:19-20. It tells us to go and make disciple of all nations. 

Most recently, I have looked more clearly at the writing of Paul where he tells church leaders that their gifts are for the purpose of building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13). So, we have two commands that are especially important mandates: “Make disciple” and “Equip the saints.”

 In Jesus’ early ministry, He did both. He taught AND He equipped His disciples to release them in ministry.

So, you may ask, “How do I do this in my small group?” I was reading Ezekiel 47:1-9 a while back, and it hit me.

The Lord showed me a picture of spiritual growth one step at a time.

Ezekiel is standing on the bank of the river looking at the temple.

Out of the temple is flowing water that gets deeper and deeper. Eventually, it gets so deep that he must swim.

There are five levels that this passage of Scripture illustrates. Be sure to read it so that you can become familiar with the passage.

Let’s look at it here. The angel showed up with a measuring tape and began marking 1,000 cubits at a time.

The angel began where Ezekiel was standing on the bank.
He measured out 1,000 cubits, and the water was ankle deep.
Another thousand, and it was knee deep.
Still another thousand, and the water was waist deep.
The final thousand cubits out, he found the water to be so deep that he had to swim.

It was then that it hit me. Here is a simple description of what Ezekiel saw.

  • On the Bank—I Do, You Watch
  • Ankle Deep—I Do, You Help
  • Knee Deep—You Do, I Help
  • Waist Deep—You Do, I Watch
  • Swimming—You Do

Most kids in our churches are on the bank, and we DO NOT want them to stay there.

They will check out mentally, and their minds will be out in left field the whole time you teach.

The goal is to move them off the bank to action. Let me give you an example.

I did a test at my church with a new group of seventh graders who moved up from our preteen ministry.

I began having them serve in the church according to their spiritual gifts.

Afterwards, we met for Bible study and to debrief them after they ministered.

About three weeks into our study, one young man told me that he felt like he was a part of the church as he served and ministered.

What really opened my eyes was what he said right after that:

“Brother Clint, three weeks ago, I sat in Sunday school, and I didn’t hear a word that was said by the teacher.

My mind was somewhere else.”

You see, he didn’t have a lousy teacher in my church.

His teacher was one of those who I thought was the best teacher.

Then, I thought about this person’s teaching style.

The teacher was lecturing the kids in his group rather than engaging them in what they were learning.

Here are nine steps to get you started. I will cover the next steps in my upcoming blog post.

You model the Christian faith. “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1, NASB) To become effective in your teaching, you first have to be living it out yourself. Don’t expect kids to become something you are not.
You are fully submitted to the Lordship of Christ in your life. If you are not walking faithfully with the Lord, you really need a heart check. Repent, and turn back fully to Him in complete surrender. Through surrender, we give the Holy Spirit permission to do a new and fresh work in our lives.
You do daily quiet times. If you are a small group leader, make sure you are in the Word of God daily. If the children and preteens in your group are required to do a daily quite time, you need to be doing it along with them. Show them that you are doing it in your small group.
You memorize Scripture. If children are asked to memorize Bible verses, you need to be doing the same. It tells them that it is just as important to you to memorize verses.
You do everything in your group. When you first start out, you do everything in your group. You model for them what faith looks like and what your relationship with Christ looks like, as well as how to lead and how to pray.
You regularly attend worship. Be in worship on Sunday. Make a point to reach out to the kids in your group when you see them there.
You teach, and they observe you. When you teach, you show them how to teach properly by being sufficiently prepared.
You should determine the spiritual condition of each person in your group. Who knows Christ, and who does not? During the time when you are modeling and going through all the activities in your group, you will want to find out where the kids are spiritually. That means sharing the Gospel when time permits to make sure every child in your group knows Christ and has an opportunity to respond.

These are very important steps to get you moving in the right direction.

In my next blog, I will walk you through how to administer a spiritual gift test and then move to the next step—I do, you help.

This is when things get exciting in your group! You will begin to see enthusiasm build as the children and preteens in your group connect with their spiritual gifts.

The goal of these steps is to model your faith to kids who may or may not have a good example at home.

You do like Jesus did with His disciples as He taught and brought His teaching to life through His actions.

He then moved His disciples into action by engaging them in His ministry.

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