Fall Semester Has Launched!

Our groups are underway this fall, and in the midst of all the attention and excitement of the HEROES series, let’s take a quick but important look back at the basics of small groups: Why is participating in a small group one of the absolutely most important things we can do with our precious, God-given time?   

Pastor Rick Warren gives a good basic answer in this article, based on the single clearest description of small groups in New Testament narrative (Acts 2:42-47 – one of the “Daily Encounter” scriptures from the HEROES Welcome week), where he identifies 7 marks of healthy small groups

Examine whether your group is healthy in all seven areas; come up with your own ideas how to get them there:


Small Group


Small groups in the New Testament studied the Bible together.Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” Of course, we know the teaching of the apostles is what we call the New Testament today. They lived in an oral culture, but they were still studying lessons from the apostles.

One thing you can do is have your small groups study what you taught the congregation on Sunday. At our church, Saddleback, we have a group of volunteers who create “Talk It Over” guides that we put online Sunday night. These can be printed out and used by small groups during the week. They include questions related to the Scriptures we studied in the weekend services, plus additional verses to consider.

The benefit of this is that it helps people focus on one Bible truth. Too often we teach too much. When I was growing up, I could go to church throughout the week and end up with as many as 13 different Bible studies. I started thinking, “My life can’t change that much.” Sometimes I think we teach too much, so something like the “Talk It Over” guide will allow your congregation to focus on one biblical truth a week.


The Book of Acts says the early believers were devoted to fellowship (v. 42). This means they were serious about their friendships. Notice the text here says they were devoted to “the fellowship,” not just to “fellowship.” In other words, fellowship is not just an act the church does; we are the fellowship.

Jesus calls us to be committed to one another, and it is through small groups that we learn the skills of relationship. Small groups are laboratories of love, where we learn to obey the command of Jesus to love your neighbor as you love yourself.


The Bible says the early believers devoted themselves “to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (v. 42). The “breaking of bread” in this passage specifically refers to Communion (or the Lord’s Supper). In the early Church, they did not take Communion in a large worship setting; they served it in small groups.

You will, of course, want to work within the tradition of your church, but at Saddleback we allow small groups to serve Communion. For one thing, Communion is only for believers, so a small group setting ensures only believers will take part.


The Bible says the early believers devoted themselves to prayer (v. 42). Jesus taught that there is a power to prayers spoken aloud for each other, and he made an incredible promise about small groups of believers: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” (Matt. 18:20). In the intimacy and confidentiality of small groups, we can pray for each other as we share our hurts, reveal our feelings, confess our failures, disclose our doubts, admit our fears, acknowledge our weaknesses, and ask for help.  [For Lake City Small Groups, our goal from Pastor Jim is to pray a total of 20 minutes each meeting.]


The Bible says these small groups gave “to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45). Small groups allow us to help each other with practical needs: “Can I loan you a car?” “Can I provide you with some meals when you are sick?”

We tend to centralize ministries, creating a food pantry or a counseling center. But this wasn’t the New Testament model. The early Church had decentralized ministries, so that’s what we try to do at Saddleback. Let me give you an example. A few years ago, one of our members met someone who had been in a bad situation and ended up homeless. She bought the homeless person a meal and then provided him with a bus ticket to where a sister lived.

The next day, the Saddleback member told me about it and said, “There are lots of homeless people. The Church should do something about it.” I said, “The Church just did.” The next Sunday, I got up and told the congregation, “I release you to assist the poor and feed the hungry and help the homeless.” There are small groups at Saddleback doing all kinds of ministry that I know nothing about. We’ve decentralized by giving them permission to engage in ministry as a small group.


The Bible says the New Testament small groups worshiped together, “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (v. 47 NIV). We need to worship God more than once a week, and small groups offer an opportunity to worship together. [For Lake City Small Groups, see the “Love God” section in our TOOLKIT, page 9.]


As these small groups met together, “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (v. 47). They were inviting others to join them. One of the proofs of a healthy small group is that it reproduces, so a small group may add members, but a small group may also help start another small group.

Small groups can be creative in outreach. For instance, one small group at Saddleback pooled their money and bought season tickets for the San Diego Chargers for everyone in the group, but they also bought some extra tickets. They go together to each game, but they also use the extra tickets to invite others to come with the group. They don’t start a Bible study at the game—they just have fun—but that allows them to say, “This same group meets on Tuesday nights for Bible study. Would you like to join us?”

To conclude, always remember our mission is to make disciples, and that happens in relationship. Read the previous couple posts for more about how that looks in Lake City Small Groups, specifically. 

Blessings on our groups, 

Pastor Reg


Best Small Group Ice-Breaker Ever?

Several new people joined our small group for the summer, and we expected there to be many absences on various weeks. Out of that came an idea for an ice-breaker last Sunday that was probably my favorite of all time!  I’ll call it the Speaker Phone Ice-Breaker.

All we did was gather everyone around a speaker phone, kids included, and call each person missing that night.  When they or their voice mail answered, everyone yelled, “Hi _______!!!!”; then I said that we missed them and [this person] is going to pray for you; at which point I handed the phone to someone to pray for them.

We made five calls. A different person from our group prayed each time. One was a five year old son of one of our families! It was awesome.  One call was made to our loved family who had just, sadly, moved away; but it happened to be their anniversary!

It was a phenomenal ice-breaker all around – getting the kids involved, sharing our love, letting people know we missed them, and praying for each other.

BUT, the greatest moment of it all came the next day, when our co-leaders and soon-to-depart missionaries to Niger, Jon and Christine Banke, sent this on our group’s Facebook page…

Thank you so much for the call and the prayer!! That was really neat…we feel loved. While I was listening to you pray, Sarah, we got an email from someone with a commitment of $100.00 a month! : )

That was one of the coolest things ever! And later that day, they got the final commitment that brings them to 100% – FULL SUPPORT for their return to Niger.

Thank you, God, I love it when you work that way, for us to enjoy!