These blog posts are based on the assumption that "sharing life" with other Christians should be an integral part of our DNA as Christ-followers. Therefore, given the proper setting, these types of relationships should naturally flourish as long as we aren't quenching the life-giving aid of the Holy Spirit.
Already, I wrote that anyone can lead a small group if they have food. Now, I offer you the second element of a healthy small group, FELLOWSHIP.
"Fellowship" is one of those words that really only shows up in the church setting, so it may need a little bit of defining. Essentially, when we use this word, we are speaking of the unique type of relationships that Christians can only have with other Christians. It is a special kind of life-sharing that is precipitated by the important things we have in common, namely our faith in Jesus Christ.
In the book Why Small Groups?, John Loftness defines fellowship as "participating together in the life and truth made possible by the Holy Spirit through our union with Christ. Fellowship is sharing something in common on the deepest possible level of human relationship -- our experience of God himself."
This kind of fellowship doesn't just happen. It needs to be cultivated. In a healthy small group, the leader regularly takes time to cultivate fellowship by building relationships among group members. In my opinion, a significant period of time should be devoted to relationship building almost every time the group comes together. This is the best way to develop true fellowship.
Generally, the best way to begin the process of developing relationships is by getting people to talk to each other about themselves. This is most easily accomplished by asking questions. You can ask silly questions like:
· If you were stranded on an island, who is one person you'd want with you?
· If you could have a conversation with one historical figure who would it be? What would you ask?
· Where would you go for the ideal vacation?
Or you can ask more probing questions:
· What is the most significant life-changing event you have experienced?
· Who is someone that has had a deep impact on your life?
· When are you most afraid? Why?
Often the answers to these questions can be followed by other questions, or they may simply get the group talking and laughing together. At the moment you feel you are beginning to lose control of the group because everyone is so engaged in conversation... you're beginning to develop fellowship!
One other great tool for relationship building is board games. A few games which might be very helpful are: