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Communicating in Small Groups
Christian fellowship ministry is the replication and continuation of ministry of Jesus Christ and of His Holy Spirit through His disciples on earth today. Each ministry is formed as a small group or team and in fulfillment of the teachings of the Holy Bible, which read: "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:17). " A Christian who has a true and strong fellowship with God is drawn to a fellowship with other Christians who, like himself or herself, walk in the same light, have received forgiveness and have a personal relationship with God.
The Scriptures say that, before Jesus Christ began His public ministry, John the Baptist was already preaching and had a small group of followers, whom John later turned over to Jesus Himself. In the course of His public ministry, Jesus called more to follow Him until there were 12 apostles and many disciples, who followed Him. To them, He gave the Great Commission before His ascension into Heaven, and confirmed the Commission when the Holy Spirit descended upon those who were gathered at the Cenacle. Since then, ministries have multiplied throughout the world for centuries.
II. Purposes, Principles, Functions
Each ministry is formed as a small group, i.e., 50 members or less, ideally from the same locality, and sharing common objectives, which are to nurture, to worship, to commune, and to go on missions (Doyle 2002). Nurturing means to be fed by God Himself into growing like Christ, through the study of the Bible, discussions and testimonies. Worshiping means communal and individual praise and magnifying God by focusing on His nature, action and word, acts which bring Him joy. Worship can be in the form of prayer, song, readings of Biblical passages and kneeling. Community is fellowship and sharing of experience among Christians, so that they will be bonded and strengthened as a whole in love. This can be in the form of praying together, bearing one another's burdens and helping one another develop gifts of intercession. And mission is reaching out to others in need with the good news of Christ's love. The purpose is to help others know God (more) and help them become like Jesus through prayer, sharing the Gospel with specific groups of unbelievers or raising and contributing to worthy causes.
III. Small Group Dynamics
The members among themselves first establish an agreement, called a covenant, which is the collective purpose and the method or methods to be used in achieving the purpose. This covenant is the direction and the basis for solutions to future problems. It also makes each member an owner of the group, preventing it from becoming leader-centered.
Studying the Bible
The leader or member in charge of the particular session thoroughly reads the section to be discussed and gathers further information before the session. In leading the discussion, he allows maximum freedom to members or participants in exploring the material. He acts only as guide, not the expert. His preparation only helps him keep the discussion on the right track and gives him the chance to acknowledge questions and added information and direct the course of the study.
He leads the prayer, prays for each member of the group and for God's guidance. He also enumerates and prays for the needs of his members, which he manages to obtain in advance and keeps track of. And he is aware that not all learners are the same, but motivates each type appropriately. There are learners who want only information, because they enjoy memory work and word studies. There are learners who look for personal meaning, want to get personally involved, interact, listen and share. There too are learners who want to get to the bottom of the activity and ask the how and the why because they are interested in applying the teaching or lesson. And there are learners who are results-oriented and want to act right away or focus on the action. The leader provides the direction and the estimated results of a particular action to learners like this.
Regular meetings are held to keep abreast of the group's activities and to continue building relationships as well as expanding communication lines among members. Before each meeting, members greet one another as they arrive, which fills the need for significance. During the meeting, the members express what is appropriate for the common need for belonging and of family, with Jesus at the center. And they refrain from criticizing, because criticism leads to a loss of trust and discouragement. After the meeting, the leader comes to specific members with special needs. This provides time for building relationships, establishing prayer partners and setting social activities.
In conducting meetings, the leader and the members use sharing questions, which help build relationships because the members talk about themselves. They also use affirming questions that raise their morale, because these affirm their qualities through which God may be working His will. These are very important in building that sense of belonging and caring among members. The purpose of such questions is the share one another's person, not just ideas, so that they are able to receive affirmation and love.
The members guide one another in achieving their covenanted goals, while allowing each the freedom and independence needed for growth. They also exercise watchfulness, a willingness to listen, humor, creativity and fun during social activities, recognition of the roles played by other members and the stage/s of growth of the group. These stages are pre-contact, orientation, power and control, trust, differentiation and change, and conclusion or new beginning.
Small Group Communication During Meetings
This happens in all five levels. First is the cliche level, of "safe" public information in the first few minutes of a meeting. Second consists of general information and facts, such as events and ideas, but excluding the members' commitments and beliefs. Third consists of personal ideas and opinions on a less superficial level, which involves risk-taking. In the fourth level, members share their feelings, not just thoughts. Here, they drop some guard. And the fifth is peak communication, which is the deepest level and involves openness, transparency and secrecy. This is rare, risky but powerful.
Members use their communication skills in different ways, too. They listen by physically and emotionally focusing on the person talking. By facing, leaning forward, maintaining eye contact and brief verbal reactions, the speaker feels that she or he is getting attention. Listening is a true art and is as important as effective speaking.
Members elicit and solicit information and opinions from those who seem to participate little and those with evidently good ideas, calling them by their first names. They also ask to be clarified on any matter, so as to avoid misunderstanding. They also paraphrase one another's thoughts, which show their interest. They also justify one another's statements, extend their line of thought in a discussion, summarize the high points and re-direct questions and comments to the leader. Affirmation or acknowledgment of the previous speaker is a common way of recognizing the importance of that speaker.
Not all members may not verbalize what they go through because of the time or venue of the meeting - it may be the smallness or largeness of the room, the furnishings, the decorations and distractions. These should enhance communication, not bar it. All the members should either sit on chairs or all on the floor. The room should be small or large enough for the group, not too formal or crowded.
All the members should either sit on chairs or all on the floor. The room should be small or large enough for the group, not too formal or crowded.
Although the fellowship is not leader-centered, it still has one for practical purposes.
He is the excellent choice and he is prepared for his role. He is available before, during and after class or meeting, and makes himself available at other times when the need arises. He also shows stable faith, and through it, is able to show others how God has been working in his life and use his experience to direct members to the Scriptures.
The leader understands and responds to the needs of the members at different stages of spiritual and emotional growth and their individual differences. He constantly encourages them, builds them up, and affirms them. He refrains from and resists gossip and speaks only what edifies according to the need of the moment. He never stops learning, attends training, reads what needs to be read, shares and works with the members. He is also flexible to time and conducts needed follow-ups.
The small group leader performs follow-ups by obtaining information from the person's family, through prayer journal, by telephone, by card, letters or emails and through personal visits. He knows that as the leader or shepherd of the flock, he is…[continue]
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