2. Reproduce: In human growth, multiplication allows a cell to become multiple cells, which allows change and growth to occur. Similarly, for growth to occur in the church, people groups must continuously grow and multiply. Small groups must multiply and reproduce so more and more people can experience one.
3. Assimilate: Small groups assimilate members to ministry through service. As people in small groups grow in relationship together, they will readily serve alongside others and integrate into ministry opportunities. Whether the small group serves together or helps group members find ways to serve on their own, small groups should launch people into ministry in and outside the church.
4. Transform: Small groups allow individuals to experience faster and deeper personal transformation through authentic community. With a focus on Bible study and applying God's truth to life, small groups help group members experience real life change. For seekers, small groups provide a safe setting to ask questions in a community of people who also wrestle and struggle. They also provide a safe place for Christians to wrestle with faith issues and apply God's Word.
Small groups with these four characteristics connect people in genuine relationships in an environment where the Bible is taught, discussed, valued, and practiced. Having people in a large church gathering is great, but having them also involved in an intimate group setting is better. We must move people beyond merely sitting in rows in pews to sitting in circles in groups. It's there that people mature in their faith as they respect, appreciate, and hear those in community alongside them. Biblical illiteracy is best combated in those small group circles—whether they meet on Sunday morning in a church classroom or Tuesday night in a living room.
Through groups, people are inspired to read the Bible more, not necessarily because it's an expected duty, but because they know the joy that comes from connecting personally with God through his Word. Groups matter—especially when it comes to how well we read, know, and live the Bible.
—Ed Stetzer is executive director of LifeWay Research. Aaron Earls also contributed to this article.