Why I Believe in Small Groups

The past two Wednesday nights, we gathered as a church body for ReGroup. For those who were able to be with us, I hope you caught a vision for what our small groups can be at Shelby Crossings, and that you were reminded and encouraged to be about our Father’s business in the co-mission the Lord has given us. It’s always a helpful 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. 

I wrote in this space after ReGroup a few years ago that 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. And at the risk of being a little redundant, I’d like to give you a few reasons why I believe so much in small groups.

First, as we discussed this week, they are biblical. From Jesus’ ministry to His first disciples, to the embryonic structure of the early church life, 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 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 group 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 each 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.

Last year when we went through the book of Acts for several months on Sunday mornings, we called that series “20/20 Vision,” in reference to Acts 20:20 where the church’s ministry was “publicly and from house to house.” That 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.

We are still living in crazy times, with the Covid pandemic still hanging around and altering how we do life, and sometimes, how we do church. But I am excited about what the Lord has in store for us in the year ahead as our groups continue to make disciples, care for our members, and reach out to our community–even in the midst of a pandemic. I hope you will join me in praying for the Spirit to be at work in us and through us as we seek to honor Him through this important ministry.

For those interested in being a part of a small group this fall, several of our groups will be kicking off this week, but we are still working out details on all the groups schedule. We will let you know as soon as we get it finalized. In the mean time, I hope to see you Sunday as we gather together for worship.

–Pastor Ken