Wednesday, June 27, 2018

9 Practical and Spiritual Benefits of Home CARE Groups

Do non-megachurches really need home CARE groups?  What are the practical spiritual benefits of starting up such a ministry?  The following thoughts will help each of us in our understanding of what the purpose of a care group (small group) is and why it is important for the growth of the church, families and individuals. When properly done CARE groups can help a local church achieve it's biblical philosophy of ministry- which is to "present every believer mature in Christ" (Colossians 1:28-29).

Care groups are about fellowship – the Greek term (Koinonia) the root word is koinos, koinos, translation is common. So we have things in common and can even be translated as communion. Here with believers it has to do with a sense of community in which Christians share the work and pray together comforting and encouraging one another. Fellowship according to the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary: fellowship means companionship, a relation in which parties hold something in common, familiar interaction. (See Acts 2:42)

Consequently, as we can see from these brief interactions with the term and its meaning we can say the underlined words, communion – community – one another – companionship – familiar interaction is needed in every believer’s life. A smaller, more informal context can be a helpful place to practice the New Testament one anothers and to deepen and sweeten the fellowship of the local church.

With that brief understanding let me list for you some ways care groups help with shepherding and caring for the flock:

1. Care groups foster close relationships and integral community. The small group atmosphere is ready-made for building and deepening gospel friendships. People often share more in small groups and are quick to recognize needs, and willing help to meet them. The relationships formed within small groups form a strong fabric within a church. Many times it is these kinds of relationships that are formed outside of the formal setting of a church service, will endure and strengthen over time. We can say this is a natural place for even discipleship relationships to happen.

2. Care groups provide an ideal way to care for the needs of people within the church. When one believer in a small group is struggling financially, emotionally, spiritually, socially, etc., it is much easier for the members of the small group to notice and provide help. The structure of a small group is essentially a community of believing friends. Friends should help one another, especially Christian friends. (Gal. 6:2, Bear one another’s burdens…)

3. Care groups provide a way for Christians to live out their faith instead of merely hearing more preaching or teaching. "We gather to learn, we scatter to live."  If Sunday morning is for listening/growing, then the rest of the week is for applying and living what we learn. Whether it’s discussing the Sunday sermon, talking about a spiritual battle, or simply praying for one another, care groups create a context for Christians to live out their faith in real life. (James 1:22, But prove yourselves to be doers of the Word…)

4. Care groups participate in focused prayer for one another. Prayer cannot be overrated, but it is often under practiced. Small groups can better participate in prayer for one another. In one of my small group meetings, each of the people that were present took a few minutes to tell others about their particular challenges or concerns. Then, as soon as he was finished, the person right next to him took a minute or so to pray for him. Small groups also make for great prayer meetings. (James 5:16, pray for one another…)

5. Care groups provide a comfortable atmosphere for openness. One thing I like about small groups is that we meet in homes. There are many references in the New Testament that talk about believers meeting in homes. (Not all are references in Acts: 1 Corinthians 16:19; Philemon 1:2). Homes are usually comfortable places—places devoid of pews, PA systems, and stages. Care groups are often places where people can more easily open-up, listen, learn, and grow.

6. Care groups allow for mutual edification among believers. It’s easy to depend upon the professionals to give us our spiritual food. According to the Bible, God gives spiritual gifts to all believers, not just the one who preaches on Sunday morning. These gifts are for the benefit of the whole church. Every Christian should minister to other Christians with his or her gifts. This happens almost naturally, effectively, and purposefully in small groups. (1Peter 4:10)

7. Care groups provide a source of encouragement and accountability. It’s easy to slip in and out of church unnoticed. It’s not just megachurches where this happens. In an average-sized church people may be coming each Sunday service but not getting involved and care groups can help in this area. In fact, all of us need accountability in our lives, encouragement in our walk with God, or help in some way. Care groups provide a way to better meet these needs.

8. Care groups help to cultivate leadership within the church. Someone has to lead a small group meeting, or at least to help facilitate the discussion. Unless your entire church is the small group (which is unlikely), there will need to be leaders other than the pastor or pastoral staff. Thus, small groups give opportunities for leadership development within the church.

9. Care groups provide a comfortable introduction for nonbelievers to the Christian faith. Some may be skeptical about coming to a church. Just as many of us tend to fear relationship-forming, especially when it involves sharing our faith with someone. However, inviting someone instead to a small group meeting provides a way to involve a believer who has no church or an unbeliever directly into a community of believers—watching them live out their faith, listening to them pray, hearing them share God’s work in their life, and learning more about the Bible. The nonbeliever is more likely to ask questions, get answers, and form relationships with the believers. Small groups are a powerful missional tool, allowing for the greater spread of the gospel among nonbelievers in the community.

Subsequently, with these reasons in mind and an understanding of fellowship we will attempt to begin a care group of believers who live north of the church in the Hartford region in the hopes of connecting families and individuals together. This is purposeful for the growth of the flock by growing in our love for one another and for the growth of the church as well as the spiritual accountability and maturity of the saints. This initial CARE group will also serve as one way to evaluate the pros and cons of this type of ministry in the entire church.  Our prayer is to establish more regional CARE groups in the future if it seems the Holy Spirit is leading in this way.

Article written by Pastor Kent Kolstad.  Kent is the Associate Pastor at Lake Country Bible Church.  One of his roles on staff is to oversee our budding CARE groups.