Before someone is able to join a small group, they are expected to read and sign the Small Group Covenant. It’s important that prospective members understand why we have them sign this document and just how necessary it is.
As Mark Dever explains in his book The Deliberate Church, “The form of the covenant is the way we express our commitment. The content of the covenant is the way we understand our commitment.” The Small Group Covenant ensures that each prospective small group member knows what to expect of their small group and what their small group will expect of them. Thus, the Small Group Covenant acts as a safeguard for each of our small groups. It communicates to prospective members that we take small groups seriously, it helps create an environment of mutual accountability, and it emphasizes the importance of biblical conduct and responsibility within each small group.
There is certainly biblical precedent for covenanting with other believers under God in this way. Nehemiah 8-10is a great example of such a covenant. After a time of repentance and renewal in Israel in response to the hearing of God’s Word, Nehemiah 9:38 says this, “Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes our Levites, and our priests.” Nehemiah 10:1-27 then records each of the names of those involved in the covenant and 10:28-39 lists the covenantal obligations. These obligations defined which areas of their lives required specific commitments. Their covenant tackled issues related to marriage, temple worship, and observing the Sabbath. The final words of this chapter offer up a concise summary of the significance of their covenant, “We will not neglect the house of our God.” Similarly, when a small group member commits to the Small Group Covenant, they are in effect saying, “We will not neglect our church small group.”
Another example of a believer covenanting with another believer is found in 1 Samuel 18:1-5. Because Jonathan’s love for David was so strong, verse 3 says, “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.” You see, covenanting with other believers in a small group is really an act of love. Taking part in times of fellowship, Bible study, mutual ministry, accountability, and outreach with other believers should be motivated by a love for God and a love for neighbour.
The Small Group Covenant is one of your greatest assets as a leader. I would encourage you to bring it out on a regular basis, perhaps at the start of every new curriculum. Use it to remind each of your small group members of the commitments that they have made with each other and to nurture and promote quality discipleship within your group. You can download a copy of the Small Group Covenant here.
You are loved!
Dever, Mark, and Alexander Paul Alexander. The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2005.
Hammett, John S. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2005.
Small Group Leadership 201. Chicago, Illinois. Harvest Bible Chapel.