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Tuesday
Jan222013

Going Deeper with Small Groups

I recently read in Luke 5:4 where Jesus had finished teaching from a boat and then said to Simon, “Put out into deep-water, and let down the nets for a catch (NIV).” I immediately thought of the level of shallowness at which some Sunday School classes and small groups function.

There are different levels of sharing any time a Sunday School class or small group meets.  There is the shallowest level known as the “chitchat” level. This is when we talk about sports and personal interests.  The second level is the “opinion level” where people give opinions about truths that are being studied but do not open up their personal lives.  The third level is a level of “spiritual intimacy.”  This is when people share past experiences as well as present failures and victories applying them to the subject being studied.  The first two levels are good and needed but fall far short of creating Christian bonding within a class or group.  It is probably safe to say, the majority of groups spend little, if any, time at the “spiritual intimacy” level.  

The “spiritual intimacy” level is the most fun and enjoyable for all Christian nurturing.  Recently, I started two new groups at our church. One of these two “spiritual intimacy groups” ranges from ages twenty to thirty, and I have been teaching this group from four to five thirty on Sunday evenings.   The second group ranges from ages thirty-one and above, and I have been teaching this group from six to seven-thirty on Sunday evenings.  As I said both are geared to function at the “spiritual intimacy” level for the next six months.  Most would consider themselves Christians.  A few may question God’s existence but they are willing to explore.  Certainly, we will have some chitchat and a lot of knowledge will be shared, but both classes will be taught at a level of sharing “feelings” and not just at a level of sharing “intellect”.  

Before the classes began, I met with every participant and let them know the class covenant that included, among other things, faithful attendance, absolute confidentiality, and completion of all written assignments.  Also, every person was told, no one would be embarrassed or do anything they did not want to do. However, they were expected to be a participant and not just a spectator.  

I know personal healings are already taking place.  This includes deep healings in my own life.  We limit our ministries if we think the altar is the only place to shed tears or share “spiritual intimacy” before God.  In only two sessions with both of these groups, we have experienced tears as well as laughter.  Luke supports this level of teaching when he writes, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”  We have only met in this closed group for two weeks but we have bonded more than some groups do in years.

What exactly are characteristic details of “spiritual intimacy groups” and how do you form one must wait for another discussion.  But I can tell you this, as teachers, we must be willing to be vulnerable with our own feelings and be comfortable when God’s Spirit moves on the hearts of our listeners.  

Don’t be afraid to move out into the deep.  It is only in the deep our nets can become full.  

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