This topic is adapted from the PursueGOD Network YouTube channel.

There’s nothing more exciting than a small group that is growing. But unless leaders are intentional, most groups will naturally settle into an inward focus. Once the outward focus is lost, it’s hard to rekindle. It’s hard to move the group toward reproducing. So build an outward orientation into your group from the very beginning, and keep fanning the flames.

It Starts with the Leader

Your care and concern for people outside the group will be contagious. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, cultivate it. The group will quickly catch on to your values and priorities. At least look for someone to add to your leadership team who has a vibrant interest in people far from God.

It’s a Sign of Maturity

We grow mature by helping others pursue God. That means helping others trust in Jesus for eternal life. If your group doesn’t care about people who aren’t there yet, your group isn’t going to produce mature disciples of Jesus. Christians who don’t care about lost people show that they are not mature. No matter how much knowledge they have or how steeped they are in church life, they lack the heart of Jesus toward people. Christians who have not caught a vision for going full-circle in their own pursuit of God are likely to grow stagnant and develop a Sunday-only kind of faith.

Cast Vision

Remind people of the purpose of the group. You have to tell people over and over again, because people forget. They will easily revert to their previously held view of small groups and of spiritual maturity. People get comfortable in their own existing relationships. So they have to be stretched, challenged, and motivated regularly. Express to your group a goal for numerical growth. Numerical growth is the practical byproduct of an outward focus that connects with real people.

Talk together about the challenges

Help your group process the challenges of enfolding newcomers. Be up front about the messiness of being hospitable and open. Explain how adding new people will affect the group dynamics. Help people see how those inconveniences are worth it! Remind them that as Christ-followers, we give up things we love for things we love more. So we’re willing to give up our tight fellowship and relational comfort to see people come to faith and start pursuing God.

Pray Consistently

Make an outward focus part of your prayer life as a group. Pray often for the community and its needs. Pray generally and by name for people who are not part of the group yet. Pray for your hearts to be aligned with God’s heart. Pray that God will lead people across your path.

Train Your Group to Be Invitational

Help your group members take steps of faith to reach out and invite others into your group. Train them how to be welcoming to guests. Invite people who are spiritually restless, who may still be far from God, but are perhaps open to faith or have questions. And invite church attenders who need to take a next step in pursuing God.

[Related: Train Your Group to Be Invitational]

[Related: How to Make Your Group Welcoming to Guests]

Find Ways to Serve the Community

Increase your outward focus by getting out into the community. As a group, plug in to your church’s outreach or service projects. Or create a project of your own based on needs in the community that arouse your concern. Ideally, look for projects that allow you to build relationships in the neighborhood. Also, your project can be a gateway into your group life. Invite others to join you as you go. Then after you serve, take time to enjoy fellowship together.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. Can a small group be healthy without being outwardly focused? Explain.
  4. What are some evidences that a group is inwardly focused? Outwardly focused?
  5. How can a group that is inwardly focused change to an outwardly focused mindset?
  6. What are some of the challenges of enfolding new people into a group?
  7. How can community service help change your group’s attitude toward outsiders?
  8. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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