Today’s blog post is by Dr. Philip Nation. He is a publishing leader, pastor, and author. His latest book is Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Gather Us Together, and Send Us Out. He regularly blogs at www.philipnation.net. Today he’s going to help us understand and unpack 3 myths about small groups. I hope you’ll enjoy meeting Philip through this post – consider adding his blog to the list of the ones you follow – he’s a great writer, thought-leader, and friend.
3 small group myths
Small groups are an essential part of church life. It goes by a multitude of names – Life Groups, home groups, Sunday School, Bible fellowships, and the list goes on. When a ministry is so important, for some reason, myths begin to swirl around it. Here are three of the myths about small groups.
- Small groups are just for fellowship. Small groups must be an environment where people grow closer but not just for the sake of friendship. As believers, our fellowship deepens when it is centered on the truth. Fellowship is one of the functions of the church but it is not the ultimate reason for small groups. Transformation is. Small groups draw people together with a higher purpose than just hanging out in the name of Jesus. We want to draw people around His Word so they can be fed and then transformed by it.
- People in small groups should stay together indefinitely. In other words, breaking up a group is bad. It is the myth that leaders just want to split every group for an underhanded reason; control, spitefulness, power-grabbing. In reality, we all know that healthy things grow and then multiply. As leaders, we also know that when things don’t grow, then they begin to drain energy from other parts of the body. Small groups are the same. Now, this is not to say that a small group that does not multiply is moldy, rotten, or cancerous. But it can be reveal an inward-facing spirit that runs counter to the mission of God. By engendering a spirit of multiplication, small groups will eventually reach more people for Christ and help more people mature in Christ.
- Anyone can lead a small group. I want to tread carefully in this one because it is so close to true. If the statement read, “Anyone can learn to lead a small group,” then we’ve got it. But, as it stands, it is a bit naïve. It comes back to purpose. If you buy into myth #1, then anyone can lead a small group. Just be there to host everyone for a good time and a quasi-spiritual conversation. But, if you want to lead people toward transformation, then as leaders, we need to produce leaders. Rather than just throw people into the situation of handling whatever comes up on their own, teach/train/prepare them to be a great small group leader.
If you would like to see more about the strength of small groups (no matter what you call them), I suggest that you check out two new resources. First, Transformational Groups by my friends Eric Geiger and Ed Stetzer. Using data from the largest survey of pastors and laypersons ever done on the condition of groups in the church, they define a simple process to lead your groups from where they are to where God wants them to be. Second, take a look at the new site Groups Matter. It will help you dig deeper into how groups can be healthier and you can see how churches across the world are committing to staring 100,000 new groups this year. Fun stuff!