Through all the hype and trendiness associated with various small-group philosophies, it's critical that we not lose perspective on what God is doing behind it all. I was reading a recent article by Scott Boren who was taking a fresh look at the writings of some of the early pioneers of the modern small-group movement.
Scott noted these earlier writings focused on something bigger than just getting people into small groups. Click on the link above or below to read the entire article, but here's a summary of what Scott gleaned from his research:
1. Their primary concern was not on church growth, number of groups, or what percentage of the church was in groups. They realized that group participation was not the end goal, but a means for accomplishing God's greater mission. They had a vision for the redemption of creation and for empowering people to have a role in this redemption. Groups helped them do this and groups would often grow as a result. But there is little talk about how many groups, how people join groups, or other technical questions.
2. The pioneers had a keen focus on the quality of life within the groups. They were looking for the kind of life that reflected the Kingdom of God as represented by Jesus. These were not simply study groups that met once a week or twice a month. They were groups that knew they had a call to be salt and light in the midst of the world.
3. These prophets were not afraid to "draw a line in the sand" and be ready to let go of those who were not going to enter this radical call. They did not water down the vision in order to keep people. They let other churches take care of them.
4. They trained. And then they trained again. And then they trained some more. They realized that such vision for the church was radically different than the common experience in the American church. They knew that if it was to be practiced that training was crucial. They did not "lower the bar" to get people through classes. Instead they raised the expectations and then mentored people in the practical means of putting this training into practice.
5. They experimented. They did not write about the need to find a structure or model for the next church–one that could be packaged and sold to others. They believed the church should not go from one static form to the next static form called "small groups." These pioneers were using small groups to experiment with different ideas of being God's people out in front of a watching world.
This excerpt was taken from Fresh Insight for Holistic Small Group Ministries, TOUCH Outreach Ministries, Inc. May, 2009–Volume 5, Number 2