There is no simple solution to growing a healthy, balanced body of believers. However, a thriving small group ministry may be one of the best ways to fulfill the biblical purposes of the church—and solve many of the issues of evangelism and stewardship that can confound pastors. Here are seven reasons why every pastor should consider investing resources into building a healthy small group ministry:
1. Small group community is a primary felt need in America, let alone in our churches.
In South Orange County, there is a community known as one of the top 10 fastest growing developments in the country. For every new home construction, there are 10,000 applications from interested buyers.
Part of the appeal of this community is that it is built from the ground up for community. Its ads sell a return to "Mayberry" days, when everyone had a front porch, a true neighborhood community, and a sense of family among friends. Download the free PDF showing this and other companies' advertisements relating to the idea of belonging.
I met the Community Director for one of these kinds of neighborhoods and was fascinated to learn that her job is to create and cultivate a sense of community—where people feel loved, supported, needed, and have a true sense of belonging. She hires, trains, and manages cul-de-sac leaders, helping them launch social events, such as progressive dinners, costume parties, and charades nights. Her job includes a weekly trip to new and existing cul-de-sacs with a truck filled with fresh Starbucks and Krispy Kreme Donuts.
This model is very simple, effective, and transferable to any church. It can work for small groups or the entire church, and is easy to establish. Encourage your members to host a back-to-school picnic, end of the summer party, or a weekend barbeque—not for the purpose of selling homes, but to see their homes used for Christ.
For example, I did this last summer by renting a bounce house on our block. It cost me $75.00 for the day, and almost every family joined in the fun. I asked every adult who came if they would be open to participating in a 6-week Bible study on the topic of marriage, family, or relationships. It was a success.
This fall, instead of trying to get the community to come to your church, why not consider bringing your church to the community?
2. Significant life transformation can happen in small groups.
Most pastors and church leaders assume small groups are a great way to create a sense of community among the members of their congregation. It's true. Small groups are a great tool for helping people transition from doing life alone to doing life together.
Rick Warren, developer of the 40 Days of Purpose program, says small groups provide a place for people to fulfill all five purposes of the church: 1) grow warmer through fellowship, 2) deeper through discipleship, 3) stronger through worship, 4) broader through ministry, 5) and larger through evangelism.
Other Christian leaders endorse small groups, as well. Bill Hybels says "life change happens best in small groups." Rob Lacey says it's a great place for people to "talk back" about the Bible and discuss the implications of its message, leading to greater application of truth in the lives of those who attend. Bob Buford, founder of the Leadership Network, said to me recently, "There is a definite shift in the church from just a procrastination model seen in churches all across America, to a greater demonstration model of Christianity that leads to greater transformation of our hearts."