Sabbath School Lesson for August 29-September 4, 2020

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To understand how and why small group ministry is perfect for God’s church, here are some aspects to consider…

  • the first small group consisted of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Sunday)
  • how Moses and Jesus used small groups to organize God’s people (Monday)
  • the purpose of small groups (Tuesday)
  • what makes small groups work in the homes of people (Wednesday)
  • the focus of groups and how that impacts their success (Thursday)


Everyone wishes that our churches were full of believers on fire for God. There is energy in a large crowd of people worshipping the God of heaven. We can’t wait to join our voices with the thousands upon thousands of angels in the heavenly choir someday.

But the God who thrills to hear our united praises in the courts of heaven is also concerned about each and every individual who makes it there. He understands that the way to make anything glorious happen is to start small. Therefore, looking at small group ministry as a way to help us get involved in serving God ensures that no one is left behind.

Memory Text: “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’ ” Matthew 9:37, 38 NKJV

Prayer plays a central role in reaping the harvest of souls in the world today. And yes, the need for laborers is strong. We must do all we can to reach each and every person, using the methods God has laid out for us in His word.

The best way to get involved in ministry is to follow the model God has used since the creation of the world. God told the creatures on the earth to multiply. Mankind especially was created as a social being, with the capacity to multiply. The need for each other is strong.

Let’s do all we can to follow how Jesus would conduct ministry if He lived among us today.

Sunday: Small Groups–God’s Idea First

There is unity in the work accomplished by the small group, known as the Godhead. We know that from the beginning, the Holy Spirit worked through Jesus to carry out the plans of our heavenly Father to create our universe.

These three are likewise united in purpose for our salvation. Satan has attempted to derail God’s loving, just government, but through the united efforts of the Trinity, there is hope for the universe to return to its once happy existence.

Mysteriously, each member of the Godhead is also given credit for the resurrection of Jesus after His cruel death at Calvary. They obviously work seamlessly, as they execute their plans for our salvation.

The purpose for small group ministry today is to duplicate the idea that we can do more by working together, that each and every one of us counts. The model of our Creator God, His command to multiply, is worth emulating. Let’s start small and grow big, in order to win lost people to God.

Bible Verses to Consider:

Genesis 1:1, 2, 26, Hebrews 1:1, 2, and Ephesians 3:9

  • How were the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all involved in the creation of our world?

John 10:17, 18, Romans 8:11, and 1 Corinthians 15:15

  • Why are all three beings of the Godhead important in our salvation?

1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9

  • Why does God desire that no one gets left behind in the salvation of the world?
  • How does this impact the goal of a small group ministry?

Monday: Small Groups in Scripture

There are illustrations for how organizing into small groups are beneficial in both the Old and New Testaments. Moses was advised by his father-in-law, Jethro, to appoint leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, in order to share the heavy work that Moses was handling all by himself. This style of governance has proven beneficial for many types of organizations throughout history.

Jesus, likewise, chose twelve disciples to be His closest companions. Even among those twelve, an inner circle of Peter, James, and John seemed to have the closest contact with their Lord.  These chosen disciples were given a front-row seat in observing how Jesus went about ministering to people. Jesus could more easily show them how to use their individual gifts when they were able to witness and question Jesus on a more personal, individual level.

Jesus understood how to make the church grow and thrive. The small group dynamic improved their spiritual outlook within the group and increased their capacity for outreach to those outside the group.

Bible Verses to Consider:

Exodus 18:21-25

  • What kind of leaders was Moses counselled to choose?
  • How did this ensure that Moses would have less work to do?
  • Why is it important that one leader not have all the authority over a group?

Luke 6:12, 13

  • What part should prayer play in the choosing of leaders of a church or small group ministry?

Matthew 10:1

  • What kind of power was given to the twelve disciples?
  • Why do you think they were given these kinds of special powers before some of the other disciples?

Tuesday: Organized for Service

The idea of the church being like the human body was a great way to see how the different body parts work together to make the body function as it should. We are all made different, Paul reminds us, but are called to work together to make the church be all it can be. See 1 Corinthians 12:12-25.

The human body is organized into eleven systems, such as the circulatory, digestive, and respiratory systems. But the body is in trouble if any one of those systems is not working properly. Small groups illustrate these systems in the body. Each member of a small group is important to the operation of the small group. And each small group is important to the operation of the larger church body.

We can see from nature that we worship Someone who values organization. Small groups within the larger church body provide valuable opportunities for individuals to experience close, warm fellowship with each other and be able to use their spiritual gifts in the most effective way.

Bible Verses to Consider:

1 Corinthians 12:12, 13

  • Why is it so hard for us to understand the concept of inclusiveness suggested here–that everyone is included when it comes to God’s church?

1 Corinthians 12:22-25

  • Where do small groups fit in the operation of a larger church body?
  • How can small groups avoid splintering off needlessly from the larger church body? And when is it appropriate to do so?

Wednesday: New Testament Small Groups

The public ministry of Jesus planted the seeds of the gospel throughout the area of Judea with just a handful of followers.

The Holy Spirit’s appearance at Pentecost also contributed to the rapid growth of the early church. Converted Jews who were in Jerusalem for that event brought their newfound faith back to their small, local synagogues in other parts of the Roman Empire.

Of course, then persecution caused groups that met to be small and in homes, because it was safer that way. Eventually, Paul was sent out to these places of gathering to nurture and organize these small bodies of believers into churches.

There are several names of individuals in the book of Acts who were important to the development of the early church. It sounds like small groups, meeting often in homes, proved to be an effective way to grow the church and keep it spiritually healthy.

Christian homes today are also, once again, very effective places of worship for many of God’s people. Working in connection with the larger church body, these small groups ensure that individuals are nurtured more effectively and God’s mission for the church is easier to fulfill.

Bible Verses to Consider:

Acts 18:1-4

  • Why was staying with Priscilla and Aquila a good idea for Paul?
  • Why is the workplace a good place to start a small group ministry?

Acts 16:13-15

  • How did Lydia contribute to church growth by taking Paul into her home?
  • How can we use our homes for places of evangelism?

Acts 12:11, 12

  • What kind of ministry were they involved in at Mary’s house?
  • How can our homes also be used as centers of prayer?

Thursday: Small Group Dynamics

Small groups are seen as “safe havens” for its members. It feels safe to share your personal concerns, needs, and questions when you are in a more familiar, intimate setting, such as someone’s home. These small gatherings not only promote the nurturing of the members there, but also make it easier to minister to those outside the group.

The prayer and Bible study that typically identify these groups contribute to their ability to protect each other from false teachings and to participate in outreach activities. The individual spiritual gifts of each member are more likely to be recognized and encouraged. This equips the small group to mobilize its efforts to help and evangelize others in the community.

The church typically grows when small group ministry is promoted and their focus is to be a witness and to serve others. These groups must function more than mere discussion groups, whose sole purpose is to satisfy the needs within the group. Keeping the group outwardly focused is more likely to ensure its success and contribute to the overall mission of the church.

Bible study, prayer, helping and encouraging each other, and reaching out to the community are all worthy goals of small groups that tend to make them most successful. It must be recognized that some groups will only serve short-term needs and may not exist as long as we’d like, but that, too, is a benefit of having small groups. They each have a purpose for being there, no matter how long.

Bible Verses to Consider:

Acts 12:12, 13, 16, 17

  • How were this group’s prayers answered that day?
  • Why were they likely praying in someone’s home?

Matthew 9:37, 38, and 2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2

  • What are some worthy prayer needs that small groups can address?

Friday: Conclusion

Small group ministries, based on the experience of the early Christian church, is a worthy tool for keeping our churches alive and growing. They have proven to be effective whenever the model has been implemented, either by accident or design. The pandemic the world is now experiencing, for example, makes it necessary for much of the church’s work to be done in small groups, many of them online.

Four elements of a small group must be present, however, in order for it to have the greatest and longest impact. It must include…

  1. Bible study
  2. prayer
  3. fellowship
  4. witness

Of course, there may be more focus on one area than the others, depending on what you are trying to accomplish in the group. Some small groups exist specifically for ministry and others are more for the nurture aspect of its members. Sabbath School classes are perfect avenues for fostering the small group concept.

Especially important to survival of a small group is for it to maintain an outward, mission focus and to stay connected with their local church body. These small groups are valuable in getting all members involved in helping the church accomplish its mission.

Next Week’s Lesson: Sharing the Story of Jesus

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