Shortly after returning home from college in the spring of 1985 I received a phone call from a friend from church on a Friday evening. He said a few friends were getting together for a Bible study and invited me. I accepted the invitation and what transpired was a long lasting fellowship and close friendships that continue to this day. There were six of us, and while we studied that week’s Sabbath School lesson together every Friday evening, we also had pizza parties on Saturday nights and went to ball games together and even worked together in different ways with our daily secular jobs. As a young person who lacked self-confidence, I gained a a real sense of belonging and the encouragement that I needed from this group.
We studied together. We prayed together. We played together. We went to church meetings and camp meetings together. Some moved away and over time, I have lost regular contact. Still others I see every time I go home to visit, and we talk on the phone or Facebook almost every week. Funny thing is, we did not really think of ourselves as a small study group. We were just friends who studied together. But years, later after facilitating and coaching several small study groups I realize that is exactly what we were. That small study group which began in the spring of ’85 met every Friday night for several years. Even when “life” finally broke up the weekly continuity of study time, the friendships continued to this day.
While no small study group is perfect – nor should it be expected to be – here are some things that, looking back, I see as making my first ever small study group healthy.
- Diversity. We had mixed races. We had mixed ages. I was 19 and the oldest one in our group was in his 40’s. A couple in our group were married. The rest were single, but another couple in our group got married as we were all studying together. You could not put a label on our group as far as race, gender or age or marital status.
- Though close, we were not a clique. We often invited people to join us and some did for a while. Our friendship circles went well beyond our small group, and we always accepted each other’s friends at church and social activities.
- We reached out and ministered to others. We checked in on the elderly. We befriended visitors and new members on both spiritual and social levels. I will always remember the trip a few of us made to the Eureka Springs Passion Play where we also took a new church member who was longing for friendship, and we all had a great time.
As I said earlier, our small group studied the Sabbath School lessons together. That worked out well, since our small group lasted for several years, and there are not too many Bible study curricula that will last for years, unless, of course, you want to just study the Bible itself, which is a good idea. About ten years ago the church I was with started several small study groups. We found a wonderful group of lesson plans by Denis Sands. After asking permission I shared them on my website. You may find them here. I have used them for years now in several various small groups, and they have been well received. They focus on building your personal relation with Christ and with others. Each lesson takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. Each lesson has a time for dialogue, fellowship, worship, Bible study and discipleship, and ministry and outreach in evangelism. Focusing on all these areas every week keeps our groups close and personal while also ministering and sharing with others.
I would like to encourage you to be a part of a small group. It is a great way to grow spiritually and help others along the way. It also gives you a sense of belonging and purpose in a world-wide church. Don’t let the current virus pandemic stop you. I actually have a new small study group that meets every Friday night on FaceTime. We have members in Florida and Tennessee who love meeting together every week. The possibilities are endless! It doesn’t have to be complicated to be healthy and effective. Like I said earlier, we did not even really think of ourselves as a small study group. We were just a group of friends studying together and helping others. I would like to encourage you to start your group today!
Let me know if you have any questions or need any help with a small study group.