While I strongly believe that small-group ministry is a powerful tool to reach the lost, we must first give our attention to the Almighty. While techniques to lasso non-Christians are great, theyâ€™re not at the core of small-group ministry. God must be at the core. Worship is the atmosphere in which God lives, and His Word expresses who He is. When a group is God-sensitive, it highlights worship and the Word. In this atmosphere, the gifts flow and unbelievers are naturally drawn to Jesus.
Jesus said, â€œWorship the Lord your God, and serve him onlyâ€ (Matthew 4:10). Worship first; service second. This order is repeated later on in Matthew when Jesus said: â€œâ€˜Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.â€™ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: â€˜Love your neighbor as yourselfâ€™â€ (22:37â€“39). The gifts of the Spirit flow when God is exalted and given the place He deserves. In a God-centered atmosphere, unbelievers are also converted.
The normal cell group, like a good diet, includes certain staple ingredients. I recommend the following ingredients in all small groups:
â€¢ Upward Focus: Knowing God through worship and prayer
â€¢ Inward Focus: Knowing each other through fellowship
â€¢ Outward Focus: Reaching out to those who donâ€™t know Jesus through small-group evangelism
â€¢ Forward Focus: Raising up new leaders through training and discipleship
No two small groups are exactly alike, but each should include these four ingredients. UIOF (upward, inward, outward, forward) is a great way to view the progress of a small group. While the UIOF focus provides a general direction, I recommend specifying a more precise order. My own small group, for example, use the four Ws as a general guideline: welcome, worship, the Word and witness (or works).