Jay Gordon

How would you like to overhear this comment in one of your small groups? “Last week you challenged us to find a Bible reading plan and to enlist a partner to read the same plan and discuss with them each week what God is teaching us. Well, honestly, I wasn’t on a plan already, and the plan you told us about sounded good. So, I started on that plan this week and asked my 14-year-old son to join me.” The statement is an example of what you’d hear in an obedience-based small group.

Here is How it Works

Following a Bible study, the leader presents a very specific challenge for which he actually expects some action (obedience to God’s Word). Then, the following week, the leader asks for a progress report using soft accountability. We call it “soft accountability” because participation is voluntary. It would involve restating the challenge and then saying something like this, “Let’s have a few of you share what you did in response to that challenge.” Soft accountability is a great benefit, even to those who don’t participate, because they see people making life changes in response to God’s Word. As a result, they are challenged through observation.

Most small group leaders know the importance of application, but they don’t know how to implement that in a meaningful way. We teach that there are five critical components of every small group meeting—fellowship, prayer, accountability from the prior week, Bible study, and a new challenge. The two shortest parts, accountability and challenge, take just a very few minutes but yield the most life change. Sometimes it’s difficult to give challenge for the spiritually mature when some people in the group aren’t ready for that yet. For instance, if the challenge for the week is to start a spiritual conversation with someone, some of our group members may get weak-kneed at the thought. An optional challenge might be to identify three people who need Christ and pray for them daily for a month.

Leaders of Obedience-Based Small Groups Must Possess:

  • Vision – Small group leaders must believe that making disciples is the end goal, not just knowledge.
  • Willingness – The leader can’t challenge people to do what he is unwilling to do.
  • Discipline – The leader must be disciplined to have time for including a challenge, which often means omitting some content he was prepared to teach.
  • Conviction – The leader must be confident and consistent in the process, even when people don’t respond.

Now, I want to give you a challenge. If you lead a group, as you prepare the lesson, identify one challenge from the Biblical content that would help people in your group take their next spiritual step. Then frame it up into a clear and measurable challenge that you’ll include at the end of your study, even if you must omit something else to end on time. Then, the following week, ask the group, “What did you do with that?”

Jay Gordon is a member of BACE and Adult & Small Groups Minister, The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, AL