There are a lot of activities we can do for our small groups. But there is one thing that we all know that we need to do more of. You will hear preachers preach it. You will discuss it at length in your groups. In leadership meetings it comes up all the time. And now, research has shown that it is in fact the most important thing you can do to grow your discipleship group. In the very well researched book, Small Groups, Big Impact, they say, “The practice that impacts the health and growth of a small group the most is the prayer life of its leader. If you walk away from this book with only one insight, perhaps it should be this: If you want a vibrant and growing small group, consistently take time to grow in your relationship with God!” If you want to grow your group, pray.
The prayer life of the group leader impacts every other area of group health. If you want to increase the outreach to those far from God – pray. If you want to increase the love of group members toward one another – pray. If you want to increase the empowering, equipping and releasing of members to leadership – pray. Their research shows that those leaders who were strong in their prayer life were four times more effective.
But this we already know.
The reality is that we already know this. We already know that prayer is crucial. There is nothing this research is telling us that we don’t already know. We know we need to be strong in our prayer life. Living it is another story.
It is difficult to have a strong prayer life. Spiritually there is active warfare against you when you seek to pray. We need to draw near to God and resist the devil. Secondly, our culture creates lives that are often very busy. To be stronger in prayer we will need to carve out time (this may not be as hard as we think given that on average Australians watch 2 hours of TV per day!) Lastly, we need to stand against our own sin nature that moves away from God. How we see God will impact how much time we spend with him.
What’s interesting, though, is that the amount of time we spend praying is not as important as what we pray for. Passionate, focused prayer is the key. There are 3 key areas to pray for a healthy growing group.
Firstly, pray for those far from God to come close to God. Pray for an area of your city to have more disciples of Jesus. Pray for people you know who are far from God to hear about how to follow Jesus. Take time to listen to God for any ideas on what part you are to play in fulfilling this prayer.
Secondly, pray that your group would have love for one another. Pray for there to be a high level of encouragement, of laughter and of honesty. Pray that they would deeply forgive one another.
Lastly, pray for the leaders you are raising in the group. Pray for them to have courage in the group to practice their leadership. Pray that they would be empowered by God’s Spirit to be bold in starting a new group (or taking over this group so that you can start a new one).
If you find it hard to find time to pray then I suggest the following two tips. Firstly, watch a little less TV. Watch a little less and pray a little more. Secondly, drastically reduce the amount of time you spend preparing the Bible study for the group. Again, in their research they found that the amount of time preparing for the group had no bearing on health or growth of the group. Spend that time preparing your heart instead of preparing the lesson. I suggest moving to a discovery Bible study format instead.
I think one word that best describes how much time you should pray is generosity.The Apostle Paul tells us that God loves a generous giver. I think that applies to time as much as it does to money. So be generous with your time. What does a generous amount of time for God look like for you? That’s a great place to start. God doesn’t despise the little things. Give what you got.
Be a generous giver of your time to prayer and specifically pray for those three things and see what impact it has on your group.
Let me know how it works out for you.