Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Small Groups: A fad that has passed its prime?

I don't think so says Milton Stanley in this post on small groups. He takes the small group concept all the way back to the trinity.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps some small groups fail in their purpose when they are formed artificially ... just for the sake of being a small group. In my experience, the best small groups have been the ones that were somewhat fluid. People were neither forced into a group nor excluded from one. They were allowed to form more naturally, and they did so around a common ministry or task in the church, rather than around personalities. Those kinds of groups had the potential of truly being a blessing for all, both the more outgoing popular people and the quiet, not-so-popular types.

For instance, I have known of study/prayer groups that seemed to be formed in the same way a socialite might choose the "proper mix" of people to insure a vibrant cocktail party, rather than considering people for the group who might actually be most serious about Bible study. These were "invitation only" kinds of prayer/study groups.

Eric Jones said...

No doubt some small groups are formed with improper motives. Small groups, like the church, are supposed to glorify God. I recommend prayer and fasting as essential elements in forming a small group. Pray that God will bring the right people for his purposes to be accomplished.

Also, if a group is formed for the purpose of glorifying God, then it is not artificially formed. God quickly created a host of small groups after Pentecost because the believers just wanted to devote themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer.

Gord said...

I tend to agree with anonymous' comment above, but I have some reservations about small groups remaining too fluid. I believe there are valid times when a certain amount of structure and organization is needed. Even the early church saw the need for organization and delegation. Every small group must have a clear direction and purpose.

Some of the points of concern I have about "going with the flow" in small groups are these:

1. We need to guard against becoming an elite group which allows no one else into their tight circle and tends to isolate themselves away from the rest of the corporate body.

2. We must guard against only including friends or "nice" people in our groups. There may be nothing wrong with this but it tends to skew our perspective about what the gospel is really all about - reaching out to others in love.

3. We must also be cautious that our small group doesn't transition into just a social club atmosphere. If a group tends to go in that direction, people will stay away rather than feel welcomed. Every small group needs to have a stated and clear purpose. Fluidity may destroy that central purpose if we let it.

4. We must not be afraid to divide our growing small group into two smaller groups so that the overall corporate body can grow. Many small groups have tried to stay together out of familiarity, fear, or even routine. We must be bold enough to put the gospel ahead of our desire for a small group that works. It will be more attractive to outsiders who may feel that they can join a smaller group than make an imposition to an already bulging group.

5. Without a clear purpose the fluidity in a small group can destroy the whole group dynamic. We must ensure that strong leadership exists in each group who, at the same time, are training and mentoring others in the group so that the group can both grow and divide into the multiplication of other small groups.

With all that said, the ruling factor for all small groups should be love. To love God and others with all our hearts is to be our goal, however it may take place. When small groups are functioning as God intended them, love will be the unifying factor, just as it is in the trinity.

My two cents, and then some. :)

Eric Jones said...

Gord, well said.

Anonymous said...

I guess I could have used a better explanation. By fluid, I was not referring to the purpose of a group but to the idea of allowing people in and out of it as needed. Say there was a small group formed for a certain purpose, but later another group was formed for a different purpose. Someone in the first group was drawn to the the second group, maybe because he could use his talents better there. He should be allowed to move on to that new group without being made to feel guilty. I didn't mean to sound like there should be no structure in a group at all. I didn't even think of that possibility! ;-)