Why I Believe in Small Groups

We had our first week of ReGroup this past Wednesday, and though I hated to miss it (for the birth of my newest grandson), I heard it was a great time. More than anything, I hope that you caught a vision for what our small groups can be in the year ahead, and that you were challenged and encouraged to be about our Father’s business in the co-mission the Lord has given us at Shelby Crossings.

We will have another week of ReGroup this coming Wednesday, and I sure hope you can be there. (See below for details.) This is such a crucial time for us, as we take a step back from our regular routine and regroup–to “sharpen the saw” so that we can be better at doing small group ministry in the year ahead. It’s also a time for re-grouping our existing groups, as we reshuffle the cards a bit for our existing groups and launch a few new groups along the way. That is always an exciting time for us as a church.

Let me say it as plainly as I can:  I believe that small groups are the most important ministry in the church. We often say that groups are where church happens at Shelby Crossings, and I believe that is true. I’d like to give you a few reasons why I believe so much in small groups.

First, they are biblical. The New Testament blueprint of church structure was much more in line with small groups than the large group congregational gathering that defines much of the modern church. Over and over in the Book of Acts (which describes the early church in its embryonic period) the operative term for where the church gathered was “house to house.” That is, the church thrived in homes more than in sanctuaries; if you know church history, you know that it was the 4th century before there was any such thing as a church building. As someone has said, the church was from its beginning a “living room religion,” and I think it still functions best in that setting.

Additionally, I think small groups are the most effective and efficient means to do what every church is supposed to do: make disciples. Christian discipleship happens best in the context of interpersonal relationships, not auditoriums filled with audiences. Sitting in a circle with friends, learning God’s word together, is much more interactive than sitting in rows looking at the back of someone’s head, listening to someone on a stage. When fellow followers of Christ are there to pray for you, encourage you, support you, and hold you accountable, you are much more likely to grow in your walk with the Lord. Plus, a small groups of caring friends who share a common bond in Christ–where you can get real with one another–is the environment where genuine community is best experienced. 

And speaking of community, another reason I like small groups is their location and purpose: they are in the community, and for the community. That is, they are not building centered, but community centered. Our Lord’s Great Commission called us to go into all the world and make disciples. But many have reversed that commission from a “go and tell” to an invitation to “come and hear” at the church building. When we meet in homes in our neighborhoods, we are better positioned to reach out to our neighbors where they are. As the old saying goes, if you want to catch fish, you need to go where the fish are. And we who have been called to be “fishers of men” need to begin our mission in our communities where the fish are hungry, and the fields are white unto harvest.

Now none of that is to say that I don’t believe in our church gatherings on Sunday to worship together and hear from God’s word. I do, and I can’t wait to see you all on Sunday as we come together as His people to honor Him. But one without the other is an incomplete church, and leads to an incomplete and immature church body.

Some have pointed out that in Acts 20:20 the church met “publicly and from house to house.” That “20/20 Vision” of church life reveals a both/and of public congregational worship and small groups in the home. I remember hearing someone refer to it as the two wings of church. Both wings are necessary, and if you try to fly with just wing, you will have a hard time getting off the ground, and you will be destined to crash.

I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for us in the year ahead as our small groups continue to make disciples, care for our members, and reach out to our community. I do hope to see you at ReGroup this coming Wednesday, and I look forward to seeing you as we gather together for worship on Sunday.