What types of groups should we implement?
I almost hesitate to discuss the topic of group organization because if you grasp and communicate the principles we have discussed so far, a wide variety of forms of groups can be implemented with success. In fact, I think that the two most important factors in putting together an intentional discipleship plan using small groups are:
- the clear definition and repetition of the mission, vision and core values of your groups to leaders and participants
- the knowledge, wisdom, and skill of your leaders
Perhaps you, as a number of people I have run into, will see the word “knowledge” and immediately presume that leaders must have seminary degrees or be gifted teachers either in person or through recordings from big-name teachers and organizations. Unless used very carefully, such an approach can cripple a group because it will limit discussion, self-disclosure, relationship building and disciple making. It is better to have one or two leaders who have grown to maturity by going to the Scripture in the hard knocks of life and has some training in facilitating groups than a great scholar.
The forms you choose to organize your small group ministry should reflect the needs of the culture in which you live and should be as diverse as the needs of your congregation. For example in some areas, groups meet at the church on one or two specific times each week so child care is taken care of corporately. In some cities, homes are very small and both husband and wife work so people can be uncomfortable about having guests over because there isn’t time to clean the house first. Since a lot depends upon understanding your culture I’ll throw out a few ideas that you might use to spark some thought and continue with other ideas in later posts.
Types of Groups
We can roughly divide the activities carried out in a typical Life Group meeting into STUDY, CARE (relationships, sharing, prayer etc.) and TASK (service). Using the relative amount of time a group devotes to these activities, we can categorize a group into one of four types:
- Task Groups spend most of their time on a ministry service task.
- Support Groups focus their care and study time on helping people through a major life challenge.
- Interest Groups spend much of their time forming relationships around an activity or interest for outreach and very basic discipleship.
- Growth Groups focus on applying the Bible for spiritual formation and outreach.
Almost any ongoing team or group in the church can be a Life Group. When they all implement all five of the Life Group Core Values, we will go a long way to engaging everyone on an intentional path to spiritual maturity.
In order for any group to be recognized and advertised by the church, its leaders must meet certain qualifications: They must
- apply and be approved,
- be members in good standing,
- must sign an agreement to support the Church’s statement of faith and to be accountable to the church leadership for performing their duties and their teaching,
- must take the Small Group Leader’s Boot Camp and participate in ongoing coaching/training as part of the Life Group Leader’s Network.
New Church Member Process
You should think through your membership process very carefully. Regardless of the content, the way you conduct it will communicate the real nature of your ministry philosophy (how you think disciples are made) and values and will certainly communicate what expectations members feel you have of them. Consider engaging your prospective members in a small group made up of a blend of existing members (perhaps elders and their wives) and candidates. Build relationships so that people know that’s how you do church. Examine the Gospel and the nature and mission of the church together. Make it natural for people to be engaged with each other. This way you communicate and extend your church culture.
“…I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” — The Apostle Paul, Ephesians 3:14-21