Keeping it REAL

Getting back to relationships in small group ministry

Several months ago our Senior Associate Minister asked me to give him the definition of small groups in our church. I struggled with his request. You see, years ago, this church, and most churches across America, had a pretty tight, concise definition of small groups. It went something like this: "A Christian small group is a voluntary, intentional weekly gathering of 3-12 people, led by a trained leader, meeting in a member's home for mutual edification, Bible study, prayer, fellowship, evangelism, service, leader development, and group multiplication." To go along with this definition, we put together rigid policy manuals along with highly structured organizational charts. After all, that's what all the small group books said to do.

Yet the writers of Scripture seem to stay away from such tight definitions and structures. We know a few things for sure about the church: The believers (a various number of them at different times) met regularly (the word daily is used often in the New Testament) in homes (as well as the Temple courts, beaches, riversides, roadsides, mountaintops, gardens, upper rooms, courtyards, jail cells, and undoubtedly other places as well). The early church could be described better relationally than organizationally. Some structures and systems were indubitably in place, but they were not all that evident. Discipleship happened in and through relationships.

I have come to a place and time in my ministry where I just want to simplify everything. I don't want to build a small groups ministry so much as I want to help people connect in life-changing community. I've learned over time that every body needs a skeletal system for support, but if you can actually see the skeleton, the body is not healthy; it's ...

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