When you think of the word "model" what comes to mind? When I was a child one of my favorite activities was constructing model cars. I had a '67 Mustang Fastback and then I had a '69 SS Camaro along with many others. It was a great thrill, to not only purchase the replica of the actual car, but it was equally fun to put the model together and enjoy the finished product for years to come. Models enable us to look at something from a lot of different angles and appreciate the symmetry of the architect's vision, especially if it's a '67 Mustang. The dictionary defines "model" in this manner, "a small object, usually built to scale, that represents in detail another, often larger, object." Another definition is this, "a schematic description of a system, theory, or phenomenon that accounts for its known or inferred properties and may be used for further study of its characteristics."
There are many different small group "models" that you can build a small group ministry upon. Before you put together a model for small group ministry, you must first establish what the end product should look like before you begin assembling the separate parts. I am a seminary professor and when I teach on this subject, I make sure that my students know the foundational passages and principles of small group ministry:
- The Great Commandment: Love for God and love for your neighbor.
- The Great Commission: "Make Disciples" surrounded by three modal participles:
- In your going…
- Baptizing them…
- Teaching them to observe (obey). Sometimes called the Great Omission.
- In your going…
- The New Commandment: Loving other brothers and sisters in Christ.
- The Extreme Commitment: Colossians 1:28- "Admonishing, Teaching and Presenting EVERY MAN complete in Christ."
When you build a small group ministry that is built upon developing individuals who love God and people, who are following good examples and a significant majority of the people in the church are involved in the process… then you are not far away from creating something that has unbelievable potential and power. The early church harnessed this potential and power and turned the world upside down for Christ.
The rub comes when you try to do this by using impersonal precepts or concepts rather than people. Some churches try to use just Sunday school as a model, but Sunday school does not have the personal mentoring aspect. It does well with teaching and "ok" with training, but in order to create transformed lives you must have personal examples. Some churches have then added small groups to address this challenge and have become a church "with" small groups, but usually they are not connected in a unified strategy and do not represent a majority of the people in the church.
To become a church "of" small groups, a church needs a unified strategy, a leadership development commitment, and a majority of persons attending a group. But in this scenario, the groups usually do not have coaches and are not expected to multiply or to reproduce themselves within a certain amount of time.
To become a church that "is" small groups you need to have intentional development of individuals who are committed to multiplying and birthing new groups to reach new people. When this happens you then have a church that "is" a collection of small groups and the small groups are not only the foundation of the entire church, they are the expression of the church. The natural by-product of this synergy is that the church then begins to see its mission is to not only plant new small groups, but to plant new churches. The beauty is that the leaders for these new churches have been developed in the crucible and the context of the Great Commission.
Again the reason to adopt and implement this model, however, is to emulate the model of the early church and to attempt to minister to and develop every person in the church to one day stand before Christ and hear, "Well done good and faithful servant." When this happens we can look back in eternity and praise and enjoy the symmetry of God's plan for ages to come.