When I became a Christian late in high school, I knew I had a lot to learn. Thankfully, a close friend gave me a Bible, and I began to read furiously, soaking up this new wisdom. It didn't take long, though, to come across something that I didn't understand—and the notes in my study Bible weren't cutting it. That's when I joined my first, although unofficial, small group. My friend and I—both new believers—met regularly with another friend—a longtime believer—to talk through life situations and work through our Bible questions.
A year later, when I went off to college and joined a new small group, my passion for studying God's Word in community really took off. Together we could better understand Scripture and how to apply it. And boy did we need each other. As Christians on a state university campus, we faced challenging situations regularly and had conversations with peers that left us with questions. Coming together to search God's Word for wisdom grounded us.
The early Church had this same dynamic.
They gathered together in homes, often in secret, reminding one another of God's promises, and relating Jesus' commands—to love God and others— to real life situations. They encouraged one another, challenged one another, and worked out what it looks like to be a Christian. We can do the same. In fact, we must do the same. God created us to live in community—and especially to read Scripture in community. It's only together that we can accurately interpret and apply the Word. So if you don't currently participate in a small-group Bible study, now's the perfect time to start one. Here are some keys to help you make the most of it:
Gather a few friends. I've had great groups from 3 to 16 people, but the ideal number is more in the range of 6 to 12. You'll want to have few enough that you can really engage with the whole group on your Bible passage. If you have a group of 16 and each person talks for five minutes, your meeting will be a minimum of 80 minutes—and that's without time for snacks, prayer, or those moments where it's quiet while everyone is thinking.
Seek the right people. Make your motives clear from the beginning: You want to get together for Bible study and spiritual growth. Sharing about your lives and getting to know one another is key to that goal, but if you communicate that developing relationships is the main goal, it can easily become simply a social group.
Get to know each other. I've found that the best way to start the group off on the right foot is spending the entire first meeting getting to know one another. Without this critical step, it will be difficult to feel safe as you discuss Scripture and how you're applying it. Serve snacks, share your stories, learn what the other people do for a living, and set the tone of safety and care. Plus, when you get to know who's in your group, you'll have a better idea of what to study. Then continue fostering relationships as you meet. One tool that's worked great for my small group is a private Facebook group that allows us all to share confidentially on a group page. This continues relationships throughout the week and connects group members to one another outside of your meeting time.
Amy Jackson provides leadership and direction to the Kyria team and the Church Ministry Media Group at Christianity Today International.