Small-group ministry is dead.
Small groups aren’t creating disciples.
Small groups aren’t reaching the younger generations.
There’s a lot of negativity about small groups today. We wonder what all our hard work is accomplishing. We implement new models only to see them fail. We rearrange our church to focus on small groups only to find discipleship isn’t happening like we thought. Even “successful” groups don’t seem to be going deep enough.
Is small-group ministry worth it?
Lately in the halls of Christianity Today, we’ve been talking about “beautiful orthodoxy,” a term that editor Mark Galli coined. At first glance, the term might not make much sense: Can something as truthful as orthodoxy be beautiful? But we at SmallGroups.com—and the other ministries here at Christianity Today—have taken it up as our mission. As a ministry, we want to point to both the beauty and truth of the gospel in all we do. Rather than just point out the hard facts, beautiful orthodoxy also points us to the hope we have in Christ. Rather than just paint a beautiful picture seen through rose-colored lenses, beautiful orthodoxy also points us to the firm truth of Christ.
In taking up beautiful orthodoxy as our cause, we seek to paint a realistic picture of small-group ministry, addressing real concerns, but also pointing toward the truth of the gospel—and the fact that God does indeed work in and through community. We need both the truth of our reality and also the hope of what God is doing and wants to do through small-group ministry.
That means getting a stern redirect from the pioneers of the small-group movement, who are looking across the landscape of groups and seeing the issues that could be their downfall. But it also means pointing out innovative models, providing training on tough topics, and sharing the incredible things God is doing through small groups around the world—like The Austin Stone’s missional communities, IF: Table’s incredibly popular monthly gatherings, and a Chicago multi-site church’s growing small groups.
We’re committed to talking about the tough topics of ministry—whether it’s reporting the facts about discipleship, discussing mental illness in group members, or hearing from experts about doing small groups in a multiethnic context. But talking about these tough topics isn’t enough. We also want to provide practical resources that remind you of God’s call to community and help you take steps toward healthy, thriving community right where you are.
Small groups are messy. They can be done poorly. They take a lot of work and can produce little results. But they are beautiful messes that can be done in a way that opens us to the Spirit and helps us take incredible steps of faith. They can help us grow in ways that we simply can’t grow on our own. And I know you, like me, have experienced that.
Have we been disappointed by small groups? Absolutely. But we believe they can be so much more, and we want to inspire and equip you to move forward with small groups in your context. Will you join us on the journey?
—Amy Jackson is managing editor of SmallGroups.com.