Monday, December 8, 2008

The Right Fit

I've recently been doing some personal research behind the mentalities of Small Groups.

This is partly due to the fact that it has been the small group that Lora and I lead that has sustained us throughout this difficult time in our lives.
I've always been a small group guy. I grew up with them in my home church in Arkansas.
I started them at the church where we first youth pastored.
I ran ahead of them at the church where we most recently youth pastored.
It was our small group at Harvest Time that took care of us when our daughter tried to come three months early. It's been our small group here in Alabama that has held us up and given us strength.

I've come to understand and accept that there is no one way to do small groups and with that I'd like to share the three structures in which small groups can operate . This is not an issue of "right or wrong" way to do small groups. It's an issue to "pick the structure that's right for your church."

Church with Small Groups
Church of Small Groups
Church is Small Groups

Church with Small Groups
The two churches where I served as youth pastor had the "church with small groups" structure. Small groups were in every part of the church. Special interest small groups. Youth group had small groups, ladies' and men's ministries were small groups. Doesn't sound too different from most of our understanding of small groups other than the one major factor that separates this group from the rest. Small groups are just another ministry the church has to offer. In other words, choir was a small group, too. So was every Sunday school class, even the elders. Children's ministry workers, and so on. Church life happens and small groups happen with it.

Church of Small Groups
The church I grew up mostly used this format. The major difference between this structure and the previous one is that a church of small groups is just that: they are a community of small groups that make up the bigger church. In other words, there is more of a specific process in place to get people to a final destination. Taking care of each other, building accountability, fostering spiritual growth happens in a small group. The focus is for everyone be in this type of atmosphere of community and then together make up the total church experience. The larger church is simply a community of small groups together.

Church is Small Groups
This past weekend I spoke at a church that is a "Cell Church." "Church" happens in the small groups because the small groups are the church. Everything happens in the small groups: pastoring, accountability, caring, follow-up, evangelism, serving, communion, etc. The purpose is to get everyone in a small group to build and create more small groups with that focus. A once-a-week combined worship service is held to bring everyone together to ensure all are on the same page for what's about to be launched in the upcoming week in small groups. That once-a-week service exists for the small groups as opposed to the first two structures where the small groups exists for the service.

Again, there is no wrong way to do those small groups in your church. The point is to choose what structure you as a church leader like and want and make it yours for your church. For me, I like one structure over the other two, so it goes to say I know what I like and don't like.
And knowing that now will help me to go far in the next step in life. Beforehand I didn't know why I was frustrated or confused. It was much like putting a square peg in a round hole.

Nothing wrong with the hole.
Nothing wrong with the peg.
Just not the right fit.

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