One of the reasons Celebrate Recovery® exists is to help people develop deep, meaningful relationships. If we could change our lives on our own—without the help of God and other people—none of us would have any problems!
Celebrate Recovery is structured around small groups to help people find healing in the context of authentic community. To strengthen the small group component of your ministry, consider the following nine building blocks:
1. Frequency: A healthy small group doesn’t just meet every once in a while. Your people need to make group attendance a habit. You don’t do habits occasionally, you do them frequently. That’s why you must emphasize consistent attendance in your recovery groups.
2. Authenticity: Many people who attend CR understand the importance of being real. Accountability is only as healthy as it is honest. A small group is characterized by authenticity when people admit their weaknesses, share their struggles, and acknowledge their failures. This isn’t easy! Most of our relationships are superficial; to change lives, this can’t be the case for your small groups.
3. Mutuality: In a healthy small group, everyone is committed to one another’s growth. When one person wins, the whole group wins. Mutuality displays a genuine, unselfish desire to see one another take significant steps forward. Without mutuality, a person in a group becomes bitter over another person’s success.
4. Sympathy: Sympathy is an extension of mutuality. Not only do we need to celebrate the successes, but we also need to share the burdens. When we’re in pain, we need support from others, and that is what a small group is all about.
5. Humility: Pride destroys relationships in two ways: First, it creates distance from others, communicating, “I don’t need you.” Second, pride devalues others, saying, “I’m better than you.” A healthy small group is filled with humble people. 1 Peter 5:5 says, “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (NIV). Humility is being quick to forgive and quick to listen to others.
6. Mercy: Every small group in your ministry is filled with imperfect people. Someone will be hurt; it’s not an “if” but a “when.” Authentic relationships are built on forgiveness. As followers of Jesus, we have the power to forgive because God has forgiven us. Showing mercy is an essential characteristic of a healthy small group.
7. Courtesy: Trust is critical for the health of a small group. A small group ought to be the safest place on earth. People need to trust the group in order to open up and share truthfully. One of the best ways to build trust is through courtesy. We need to respect one another’s differences. We need to be courteous even when there is disagreement. It’s not enough to agree to disagree. We need to agree to disagree, agreeably.
8. Confidentiality: Another foundation of trust is confidentiality. Keeping confidence means keeping your mouth shut. Everything that is shared in the group must stay in the group. Gossip destroys authentic community. It’s like a wildfire that’s impossible to contain.
There are important exceptions to this building block. If a person is a danger to himself or anyone else, this must be shared immediately with the leadership of your ministry and church. If necessary, your local law enforcement must be notified.
9. Unity: In many ways, unity is the pinnacle of fellowship. You can have unity without uniformity. God doesn’t want us to be alike, but he wants us to be unified. It’s important for your small group to be unified relationally, but you must also be unified strategically. This means everyone is on the same page as it relates to the vision for why your group exists.
Small groups are messy. Why? Because they are filled with people. However, we are better together because God works through others to bring help, hope, and healing into our lives.
Consider your small group ministry in light of these nine building blocks. Share them with your leaders and have a discussion about what’s working well and what isn’t. Then create opportunities for growth. Celebrate the wins, and come up with a plan for building an authentic CR small group ministry.