Where would you begin if you wanted to start a movement that would change the world two thousand years later? You might think about your marketing campaign or how you would fund the movement, but the greatest leader of all time did something radically different.
When Jesus was thirty years old, he entered workplaces and homes and called a small group of men to follow him. You are part of God’s family today, partly due to the legacy of this small group who learned from Jesus for three years. The value of small groups is rooted in a long-term vision. It is vital to have this long-term vision as a leader. But the average man isn’t thinking two thousand years down the road, so what is the value of a small group for any man?
When most churches promote their small groups, we promote them as a place to “find community.” Please don’t use this language. Most guys don’t talk like that. But most men do want friendships.
One recent survey said that 15% of men have no close friends – an increase of 12% since 1990.
Men need friends in their life but are having difficulty finding them. In a good way, men spend more time with their families today than ever, but this often means they don’t have the energy to invest in building friendships. Your small groups become a place for men to foster these relationships that will benefit their spiritual and physical health.
Proverbs 27:9 says, “… the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” Men need these types of friends in their life.
Growing as a Man
Christians sometimes believe that people will grow primarily by listening to great sermons. While sermons are important, studies show that only about 10% of what you learn as an adult comes from formal classroom or presentation environments.
The 70:20:10 model tells us that about 70% of what we learn comes from life experience, and 20% comes from peer learning.
If we want to help men grow as a disciple of Jesus, they need space to interact with others for peer mentoring and support in their efforts. This will make truth stick even more than sitting and listening to a sermon or classroom lecture.
The Bible carries the same idea in Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
Teamwork for a Greater Purpose
When Jesus started His small group, notice what He did not do. He did not say, “Follow me, and we will become great friends.” Friendship was the group’s byproduct but never the primary goal. What He did tell them was that He was going to help them become “fishers of men” (Matt 4:19). He was clear and upfront about what the mission was for the group.
As this small group became a reality, they did all kinds of things together. They fed thousands, healed the sick, cared for the poor, supported Jesus in his ministry, and called people to repentance.
If your small groups are only focused on studying the Bible, then you are missing the fullness of Jesus’ model for a group.
Bobby Harrington has suggested this helpful rhythm for every small group who is serious about making disciples of Jesus:
- Learning: three times a month, we will study together
- Resting: once a quarter, just “chill together.”
- Eating: once a quarter, share a meal and share your lives
- Serving: once a quarter, serve others in need
Preparing Men for Influence
The long-term value of your small group is to prepare people for influence. As I said earlier, you are part of God’s family today, partly due to the legacy of Jesus’ small group of men. He never intended for them to stay together as a group forever. His goal was always for them to be sent out.
One of the long-term mistakes of small groups is that we have focused so much on our friendships and sense of community that we have lost the mission of Jesus.
The apostle Paul told Timothy, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). This is the goal: your small group will be preparation for influence.
This influence may come in the form of multiplying other groups or in the day-to-day interactions they have with others. Whatever it looks like, multiplication should be the outflow of your group. This is how starting something small can still change the world two thousand years from now.