Some people may have the vision of Small Group to simply meet every two weeks and not actually find out what’s going on in each other’s lives beyond the gathering. But that’s not a biblical approach. The apostles were very involved in people’s lives (1 Thessalonians 2:8), and the body of believers in the New Testament church were active in coming alongside and speaking the truth in love to one another (Ephesians 4:15). We are to be no different.
Every Small Group is called to be “Intentionally Invasive” in one another’s lives (one of our three essentials) so that God will be glorified in how we respond to problems.
Levels of Care
At College Park, we have levels of care to help us provide biblical counsel and care for each person’s soul. The levels are set up so that Small Group Leaders and Small Group Coaches can have a framework for how to care for individuals involved in serious struggles, whether the struggles originate from personal sin or painful suffering.
The four levels look like this:
- Level 1: Every Small Group member should be able to speak truth into these situations, and the Small Group Leader should know about it. These issues include: shame, guilt, fear, anger, sorrow, etc.
- Level 2: At this level, the Small Group Leader (and perhaps Coach) are the main ones ministering in this situation. The Coach should be aware. These issues include: Habitual struggles, depressed feelings, marriage issues, relational conflict.
- Level 3: Here the Leader remains involved, but the Coach is directing the care (and may include an elder, counselor, or other staff). The Coach’s Elder should be aware (if not involved). Issues include: Debilitating struggle (not able to function in work, etc.), immorality, drunkenness, life dominating sins.
- Level 4: At this level Elders and/or Pastors (and in some cases public authorities) are involved. Issues at this level include: tragic life-dominating sins, suicide threat, criminal offense, church discipline cases.
How Do I Know Which Level?
At each level, we can ask four kinds of questions to determine the level of severity of the issue. We call these “R.E.I.N. markers.”
Repentance: Is repentance evident in this person’s life? Are there fruits of repentance (where verbal repentance is followed up by life action)? At each level, repentance will look differently. The less repentance is evident, the higher the issue will need to be elevated.
Evidence: What evidence of the problem is shown in the person’s life? Is it a mind issue where the person is only thinking wrong thoughts, or is the evidence of issue growing by influencing others in the home, at the workplace, at church, etc.? The greater the evidence (influence on others), the higher the level.
Invasiveness: How entrenched is the issue in a person’s life? Is there any ability to turn away from this sin, or is it life-dominating? The more invasive the issue, the greater the level and the more people need to be involved.
Nature: How did this problem originate? Was it a life trial struggle (suffering) that brought forward unbiblical thinking and actions? Or is it blatant sin that the person is holding onto? Sometimes suffering can be dealt with at a Level 1 or 2. But just because it is a trial that the person did not initiate, does not mean it is not a Level 4: their response to the trial could be so unbiblical that Level 4 activity has been evidenced.
With all of these factors, a Small Group Leader—with the assistance of their Coach and others—has a framework to assess the severity of the situation, those who need to be involved, and how to take the steps needed to provide soul care for an individual or family in their group that needs care.