Something Big About Small Groups
By Alexis Wilson
Many churches set up small groups according to the members life stage or marital status. Or maybe small groups meet to study a particular book. For example, Rick Warrens A Purpose Driven Life, a women’s study of Beth Moore’s Jesus The One And Only or a men’s study of John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart but stop here and you’ll miss a great opportunity.
Instead of settling for preconceived notions, how about organizing small groups around motorcycle riding, ballroom dancing, marathon running, volleyball, painting, or politics? When Church Of The Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, embraced this innovative way of construction small groups, they received an overwhelming response from their community.
Church Of The Highlands
The most exciting thing about our church is that more people are involved in small groups that attend our Sunday celebration services, says senior pastor Chris Hodges; estimating that about 4,000 people are involved in small groups. We have all kinds recreation groups, Bible study groups, and many others.
Some groups are outgrowths of activities within the church, such as setting up for services, preparing each week’s bulletin, or taking part in the music ministry. That’s the reason we have so many people involved, says Steve Blair, associate pastor. We take something people are already doing, something they already have a passion for, and we help them build ministry around it.
How To Grow A Small Group
Each small group creates its own curriculum, but every meeting must include worship, prayer, and studying the Word. Otherwise, the group dictates the format, time, and location for meetings.
The process for forming a small group is deliberately simple. A prospective group leader attends a small group leadership-training workshop and connects with a staff person who provides accountability and encouragement. Together we determine how we can make this into a ministry opportunity, says Blair. Though we use the interest as the point of entry, we want to make sure the group is conducive to ministry. It’s our job to put in just enough structure to encourage building relationships, but not so much that people aren’t able to own the group.
The small groups offer an easy connection for those who are new to the church. Based on their interests, visitors and new members can quickly choose groups that provide opportunities for fellowship and spiritual growth with people who have similar avocations. In addition, the groups have become a highly effective means for outreach to the community.
We have a small group that ministers at Children’s Harbor Family Center, a recreational facility for seriously ill children seeking treatment at Children’s Hospital and their families, says Blair. The group formed out of a desire to minister there. They’ve had a spa day for the mothers of these children, where they cut and styled hair, gave them manicures and pedicures. They’ve had days where they go in and play with the kids and do cookouts. This group formed because they have a common passion for kids who are hurting and as a result, amazing things are happening.
The groups themselves are attractive to people who otherwise have no interest in church activity. One group formed around Southeastern Conference football, says Blair. We did the game of the week, and we had many non-Christians who were willing to join in the group because of the subject matter. These groups allow ministry to come out of places where people never thought they could do ministry, and they allow people to be ministers who never thought they were. They realize they don’t have to be Bible scholars to be able to do something for God.
The best ministry happens in small groups, says Hodges. They’re the place of discipleship and training because they’re the place of relationships and discipleship happens only through relationships.
Article “Something Big About Small Groups written by Alexis Wilson is taken from REV! the 2007 January/February edition.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”