Why do Small Group Leaders need theology? On one hand, the answer is simple: Small Group Leaders are Christians! On the other hand, the question resists simple answers.
This is partly because not all Christians today believe theology is important. So, the question at hand is not only “Why do Small Group Leaders need theology?”, it is also “Why should Christians care about theology at all?”
To answer these questions, let’s examine a helpful illustration of what can happen (and so often does happen) at a typical Small Group gathering and then look at ways Christians can grow in their theological understanding.
Small Group Leaders Need Theology Because God’s Words Matter!
Simply put, theology is the study of God. More specifically, theology is the study of God and all things in relation to him according to his Word, the Bible. And what is the Bible composed of? Words.
Words matter. This is true in all of life, but the significance of words and their meaning is especially important in the Church because the Church bases its life around Scripture. When it comes to questions of governance and positions on doctrine and the direction of the church, elders grapple not just with papers, paragraphs, and sentences, but with worlds of implication lurking behind single words.
But that’s at a high level. What about at the ground level? Do words still matter for the average church member? What about those in a Small Group?
An Example That Hits Close to Home
Imagine this scenario. It’s a Thursday night around 7:15 p.m. Your Small Group is in full swing, and you are reading Matthew 27 where Jesus is crucified and dies on the cross.
One of your group members, Dave, speaks up and comments on verse 46: “What’s so incredible to me about the crucifixion is that Jesus, the Son of God, is forsaken by God the Father on the cross.” He continues, “On the cross, the Father turned his face away from the Son. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for the Son of God to be separated from the Father and to experience such torment on our behalf. What a testimony we have in Christ of how greatly God loves us!”
How Do We Handle Dave’s Words?
If words are important, Dave just offered up many for us to consider. Lest we forget, though, we have two groups in consideration here: (1) the Small Group Leader and (2) the group members.
How should each group think about and respond to what’s been said? Should the Small Group members passively accept Dave’s statement? How should the Small Group Leader facilitate discussion and engage with his comment?
The answers to these questions depend on the combination of one’s theological understanding and one’s own personal endowment of wisdom from the Holy Spirit.
But know that what is behind Dave’s comment are worlds of implication with theological ditches on every side. How the Small Group Leader manages his comment will directly affect the theology of the rest of the group members for ill or for good.
At this point, if you are looking for a detailed examination of Dave’s comment, you will not find it here. If you long to know to what degree Dave’s comment was appropriate, you will need to do some theological investigation on your own and come to your own determination! If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry. Start with the suggestions below.
All Christians Need Theology!
For both the Small Group Leader and the Small Group member, the study of theology is an essential part of the Christian life. This is because theology happens in community.
We saw that when Dave spoke, to some extent, his entire group was then forced to wrestle with his theological conclusions. The same is true anytime someone says something in a Small Group.
Theology is not just part of the Christian life; it is an essential part of the Christian life. So, how should Christians prepare themselves to do a life of theology well?
1. Know Your Bible
Christians should know their Bible and know how to study it. This field of study is called hermeneutics.
2. Know Your Tradition
Christians should know their tradition well and seek to understand the historic creeds, confessions, and writings of their faith (like the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, or 1689 Baptist Confession) so they can utilize these writings to analyze and filter their own theology. While this field of study is broad and can be called many things (e.g., historical theology, church history, and the study of Christian thought and dogma), it simply involves bringing forward into the current day certain aspects of historic, orthodox, and Christian theology.
3. Practice Together
Christians should practice their theology together. Theology is not simply a cognitive discipline. Theology activates all aspects of a person’s personhood (their thinking, feeling, and doing). Theology has practical ends. And community helps lead us as Christians to see our theological conclusions in action!
Small Group Leaders Need Theology!
Leaders have the same expectations just outlined. However, what makes the Small Group Leader’s job different is their degree of responsibility. So, while none of the suggestions above would change for a leader (although surely some suggestions could be added), Small Group Leaders should be eager to do the hard work of theology all the more!
Where Can Group Leaders Learn Theology?
If your interest is piqued, there are a number of places you can go to further your study of theology
1. Formal Courses
2. Creeds & Confessions
While it necessitates the application of discernment, you can learn almost anything (at least at some level) on YouTube or by searching for videos on the websites of reputable organizations (like BibleProject or The Gospel Coalition).
4. College Park Equip Classes & Seminars
College Park Church offers a number of short-term Equip Classes that touch on historical, systematic, and practical theology. College Park also offers Seminars where professors and authors come to teach on specific aspects of theology.
Small Group Leaders need theology because they’re Christians. But they also want to stay a step ahead of those they lead in their groups. Thankfully, there are resources to help us grow in this together.