My sons are both in college right now, and it is not uncommon for them to be enrolled in a course that has hundreds of students in it. Obviously teaching takes place or else their universities would not have such large classes. But is this a good model for the church and its Sunday school ministry? I don’t believe so.
Andy Anderson delivers some great wisdom about the size of groups, and why small groups are better groups. Listen to his words from the book The Growth Spiral:
The Sunday School is not merely a teaching organization. It is also a ministering organization How can we minister to people enrolled in our Sunday School and reach all of its prospects if this is not done through the small teaching unit? Obviously we have no other organization of method to do this. Small Sunday School classes give us an opportunity to minister…ministry is the key to the Sunday School. We need to concentrate on the small teaching unit concept. (p.55).
Here are 3 reasons why your church should keep groups small:
- So ministry can take place. Like Anderson said, a church’s Bible teaching ministry is the best place for ministry to take place. Smaller groups tend to have people who are more connected relationally than in larger groups. When a ministry need comes to light, people jump into action – rather than assuming “someone else will do it.” Small groups take ownership of ministry.
- So new teachers will teach. Larger groups can be intimidating to teach, especially for a newer teacher. You’ve got a much better chance of getting a new teacher to say “yes” to teaching if the group he teaches is around 12-15 people, not 40-50 people.
- So small groups will grow into bigger groups. In Andy Anderson’s experience, the numbers 1/23/12 are important to remember. He explains the numbers this way: 1 new group adds an average of 23 people in 12 months if it is properly started. Properly started groups need three things according to Anderson: (1) an adequate number of prospects (2) an adequate place to meet (3) an adequate staff of leaders (4) adequate encouragement (those 4 things would make for a great blog post – I’ll address them in more detail some time down the road!). If new groups start out with the right soil, sun, and water, they’re going to grow into bigger groups.