The people in your church's small groups are like mountain climbers on a mission. They're meant to be teammates who grow together as they reach for higher and higher goals. And God wants them to eventually arrive at the summit of all relationships - intimacy.


Here's how you can help those in your church's small groups climb toward intimacy:


Believe in the dream.
Emphasize that small groups are well worth the hassles involved in joining and participating in them. Assure people that, by relying on God's power, they can overcome whatever obstacles stand in their way and enjoy significant, lasting, and meaningful relationships with their brothers and sisters in Christ.


Prepare well at base camp.
Help the people in each small group get to know each other. Have them each discover their own God-given strengths and how they can grow personally from participating in the group. Have them learn about the strengths of all the other people in their group, respect those strengths, and value them. Urge them to invest the time it takes to discover the values, beliefs, styles, and attitudes of those in their group. Have small group members spend lots of time together, both planned and spontaneously. Expect that some people will have trouble opening up to others in their group about their lives at first. Encourage them to rest in God's unconditional love for them and reveal their true selves so they can obtain the blessing of close relationships. Help small group members blend their differences to build unity. Motivate them to draw upon all their strengths to love and serve one another.


Take the first steps toward the summit through commitment.
Understand that fellowship together in a small group requires commitment - the foundation on which deeper relationships are built. Emphasize that the element of commitment is what makes a small group different from a group people join just because they have something in common (such as a playgroup for parents with young kids or a dinner club for couples). Encourage small group members to make a commitment to God first and foremost. Then ask them to make a commitment to other believers, and to the members of their small group, in particular.

Make intimacy the stated goal of every small group in your church. Urge group members to follow Christ's example by giving others the same things Christ gave His disciples - love and time. Have them commit to sharing their lives with each other so that no one stands alone and everyone cares and is cared for. Encourage members to be willing to confront others when they offend them rather than withdrawing from relationships. Ask them to abide by the decision of the majority when they are in the minority, without quitting. Motivate them to give sacrificially of their time when someone needs them instead of choosing not to be inconvenienced. Make sure that everyone in the groups has the confidence to speak their minds and be themselves without fear of rejection or causing others to leave. Challenge small group members to surrender every aspect of their lives to God and rely on His strength to help them make the necessary commitments. Support every one of your small group members in prayer.