Vicki and I like to mix up how we do small group meetings, especially in the summer. Most weeks we follow our standard format, the 5 W’s—Welcome (an Icebreaker or Opening Question), Worship, Witness (briefly praying for friends that need God), Word (Bible study), Wind (prayer & amp; ministry), and of course snacks. (I know most of our Vineyard small groups do worship between the bible study and ministry times, but our group does worship upfront to include the children in our group before they are dismissed.) Besides the standard meeting format, we often do a party or fun night like a cookout, potluck, pool party or game night.
This month we are taking several weeks just to do ministry nights. Ministry nights are cool. Here’s how they work. After the usual upfront stuff—the icebreaker, worship and prayer for our friends that need God—we simply ask the question, “Who’s birthday is next?”
Then we put that person in a chair in the center of the room and tell them just to relax and enjoy being blessed and encouraged. (If the person is married, we also put their spouse in the middle.) I then encourage the other group members to get up and stand around that person, to listen to the Holy Spirit, to share any words, pictures or scriptures that are coming to their mind, or just to pray or bless that person with what is on their heart.
It’s fun and very encouraging and refreshing for the person or couple in the middle. After we have prayed for them and shared encouraging words with them for ten or fifteen minutes we ask them if there is one special thing they want pray for. Then we pray for that thing and invite the Holy Spirit to fill them anew with his joy and presence.
Then we say, “Who has the next birthday?” And we minister to that person or couple.
You can do a few people a night. Last night we prayed for two couples and one individual. Depending on how large your small group is, praying for everyone will take two or three meetings. If you have visitors, you simply let them choose whether they want to be included or not. I remember a first time guest saying on a ministry night, “I’m coming back next week, my birthday’s next!”
Last week just before we started this month’s ministry nights, I was a little nervous. I thought, if God doesn’t show up, this is going to be a flop! It seemed risky and scary. He did show up. It was wonderful. I have never had the Holy Spirit not show up for a ministry night. He seems to like these opportunities!
This is just one way to allow more time for ministry. What ideas or experiences do you want to share about doing extended ministry in small groups?