The Small Group Movement: recent history
It is no secret that there are multiple movements taking place across the kingdom landscape. Only time will tell which ones survive and thrive. One thing is for certain, however, communal life is central to almost all of the current emerging expressions of church life. More intentional than the previous generation, the rising cadre of church leaders consists largely of communal architects, shaping the church into smaller communities for greater missional impact and presence. Not since Wesley's little bands of the 1700's, the haystack prayer gatherings of 1806 and beyond (starting from a small group of 5 and launching prayer groups still today), and the Jesus Movement of the 1960's have we seen such a church-wide emphasis on community.
The small group movement that burst onto the scene in para-church groups in the 1950's-70's began to find a home in the church in the 80's-90's. Meta-church models, cell churches, mini-churches, discipleship groups, recovery ministries, and evangelistic groups emerged. As a result, churches began to embrace group life as important for growth, but still treated this form of community as a program: "We do groups." The last 10 years has seen a move beyond that narrower focus, where groups are still essential to spiritual growth but are connected to larger mid-sized communal gatherings.
Communal life—in all shapes and sizes
House churches, neo-monastic communities, ministry teams, small groups, neighborhood gatherings, and missional communities are all examples of the Church becoming increasingly communal as it becomes increasingly mission-focused. This emphasis among emerging church adherents is refreshing, many of whom are 18-35, though not limited ...