Erika F. Puni, Director, General Conference Stewardship

Summary: This article talks about how the principles and dynamics of small groups to stewardship education teach Christians to live kingdom values in their everyday life.

The utilization of small groups as a ministry tool for evangelism and nurture is a way of doing ministry today; particularly in larger and growing congregations, and in parts of the world where paid workers are few and church members have taken on the role of lay evangelists and pastors. Given its success in introducing people to Jesus Christ, and with its cost effectiveness as a ministry apparatus I want to focus this article on how to do stewardship education in small groups.

In this discussion, I am assuming that it is possible to apply the principles and dynamics of small groups to stewardship education„Ÿteaching Christians to live kingdom values in their everyday life. Let me share with you four reasons why I believe small groups can enhance stewardship education in your local church.

Small groups--ideal opportunity for the study of stewardship principles

The dynamic of fewer persons studying together in a specific time and place provides a unique setting for in-depth study of the Bible. For participants, the small group situation creates an environment of safety and security where they can be themselves, and for the Bible instructor the small group means a better atmosphere for personal interaction and learning. Let me illustrate; an individual may not feel quite intimidated in a small group because of the presence of other people as compared to how one may feel in a one-to-one Bible study setting. This aspect of personal comfort is critical in any learning situation, and stewardship education is no exception.

The small group as a learning tool opens up opportunity to communicate stewardship principles in a personal way that is absent in a preaching mode. Group members are free to make observations of the Biblical text and ask questions. The instructor can raise issues for discussion, or he may invite participants to reflect on a specific principle and they can respond accordingly if they so desire. This dimension of personal connectedness and direct communication is an important factor in the process of learning Biblical truths and in helping people to experience Jesus personally on the basis of His Word.

Small groups--ideal community for Christian nurture and support

The small group naturally leans itself into a way of thinking and doing where group members can be challenged to provide support and care for each other. In this kind of setting, individuals after some time will come to find their identity within the framework of this social unit. They are part of a small faith community. In this new reality, members will learn to accept and trust each other as friends and equals; and this shift in mind-set will in turn help them to open up and share their lives journeys, struggles, joys, fears, failures and victories with the group. With this level of acceptance and openness, group members can now reach out and affirm, encourage and even pray for each other. Prayer, in small groups, is a nurturing ministry where members lift up each other into the throne room of heaven, and where God reaches out and touches His people in an intimate and meaningful way.

Small groups--ideal fellowship for sharing faith testimonies

One of the most powerful ways of building faith is through the sharing of personal stories„Ÿreal life experiences with God. People as social beings identify with human situations and challenges. Someone’s trials and victory over greed, for example, can be the motivating factor for another member to live simply and commit their financial resources fully to the mission of God. The sharing of personal testimonies should be a spontaneous response which allows for the empowerment of others through another person’s encounter with the Divine and their way of dealing with the varying situations in life.

While no pressure must be placed on anyone to share, the host/leader or Bible instructor can encourage participation by inviting certain individuals who are more comfortable in speaking in public to share what God has done for them. Very often, it is the personal testimony from someone’s life that moves people from being an unbeliever to a believer and from an unfaithful follower to a committed disciple of Christ. There is no limit to the power and influence of a personal story on people when it is motivated and directed by the Spirit of God.

Small groups--ideal system to practice accountability

An invaluable part of small groups, particularly in stewardship education, is the potential it allows members to act as mentors for each other. Mentoring is an accountability system which permits one person to provide support and honest feedback to another individual with the sole purpose of helping them to grow. This dynamic of personal support and accountability can take place within the context of the group meeting or outside the scheduled group sessions. Accountability contributes to Christian integrity and spiritual maturity.

More could be said about other ministry benefits that small groups can bring to stewardship education but what is more important now is implementation„Ÿgiving small groups a go. It may not work perfectly the first time you try, but practice and persistence may give you the kind of results that you’re looking for at this time.