Do We Need a Small Group "Program"?

If small groups are more like organisms than organizations, why do we need a program?

We say our groups are "family," that is, they are natural expressions of our love for one another. So why do we need a small groups "program" or "ministry" in the church? This is a question I am sometimes asked when I speak about small groups. Small groups are more of a living "organism" than a machinelike "organization, right? So why have a program?

Our families may not be "programs," but there are underlying structures and rules in healthy families. The same goes in small group ministries. Hopefully, most people who are in a church's groups will not see or think much about the structure. Real ministry and fellowship happens in the lives of group members, not in the organized program.

The church is described in the New Testament as a body. And, although we take our bones for granted, without the structure of our skeletal systems, we could not stand. The same holds true in a small groups ministry. Without the underlying system, all sorts of problems can occur.

Most of us have heard of small groups that have drifted away from the churches they originated from, getting into all sorts of questionable and unscriptural practices. This can happen when there is no accountability to church leadership.

Structure also means there is a foundation built so nothing (or no one) falls through the cracks. How do people in your church or community get into a small group? The church "program" can be responsible for helping people find a group to belong to. Some people may be able to get into groups that are reaching out, but this doesn't happen all the time, and group leaders can not be aware of every need in the whole church—even in small churches.

Another good reason for the small group program is leadership development and support. Without ...

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