Tuesday, March 04, 2008

question #1: why are you doing groups?

Why are you doing groups? What mission or purpose do you hope groups will fulfill in your church?

This is the first installment of the questions series, and I think this is definitely one of the most important questions you need to ask before starting a small group ministry. It's also a helpful question to return to and reflect upon once a year or so.

A lot of people do groups because they think it's the thing to do. This is one of my pet peeves and I could stand on my soapbox on this for several minutes. We read a book or hear someone speak or learn in seminary that we need to do groups, and we buy into the promise that if we do groups, all of our church problems will be solved. So we go to a conference or read a book or see something that works and then we take what we learned wholesale and plop it into our churches without giving any thought to our own people, own church culture, or what we are even trying to accomplish in groups.

It took John Wesley 15 years to develop and fully implement his discipleship system that later became the Methodist Church. It took Willow Creek Community Church 7 years to develop their small group program, and they are in the process now of changing it again. The largest cell church in the world pastored by Dr. Cho, with 25,000 small groups, overhauled their group strategy 3 major times before finding the right fit. So don't rush it. Don't start groups just because it's the cool thing to do. Slow down and think intentionally, strategically, philosophically, and theologically about why you are doing small groups.

Is it primarily for organizing your church into smaller groups for pastoral care purposes? For discipleship and spiritual growth? To facilitate community? Typically, the reasons for forming groups in a church fall into one of three broader categories:

  • Community and Fellowship
  • Discipleship and Spiritual Growth
  • Church Growth or Evangelism (the idea is that the church will grow best through relational evangelism. Non-christians are more likely to come to someone‚Äôs home than to church, so churches empower and challenge groups to reach out to their communities.)
You will most likely decide on some sort of mix of different purposes. The idea is not to box yourself in to one particular philosophy, but to determine what you most want to accomplish. Once you have thought through the "why" question, then you can build a model that is founded on and advances those values.


At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post Heather - and most of all for the reminder that it doesn't have to happen overnight. I've been wrestling with our system... again... and its great to know that even the best models took time, tweaking, and even failure before finding the right fit.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Todd Gorton said...

I love the questions and you wisely remind us to be slow and deliberate, not quick and reactive when working through these questions.

I would add, interestingly, it took Jesus 3 years with 12 guys to revolutionize our world with justice, beauty, relationships, spirituality and love through this little movement called THE WAY.


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