An Introduction to Small Groups

An Introduction to Small Groups

September 29th 2022
Advice / Starting a group

If you were to ask a member of the general public what church looks like they would most likely describe a building, maybe a service on a Sunday. If you were to ask a churchgoer what is the most important aspect of church, they too would refer to their Sunday congregational meetings in one shape or another. But if you go back to the year 200 AD a Christian would describe church as a small group of between 5 and 15 people that met together in a house or a secluded place and where they each contributed and helped one another, and came together for bigger meetings when it was possible.

The Church Today

Today the church is primarily about big meetings where for the greater majority of individual churches Sunday is the focus and midweek small groups are a rarity. So, the question is, are we missing out? Is there something intrinsically important about small groups that if we don’t do them we will miss out on something important that God wants us involved in? Just as in the same way that if we did not attend church on a Sunday, we would miss out on something that is important.

So, if we look at the early church what do we see that might be attributed to small groups? I think what you would see is a highly mobilised group of people where every Christian knew they were important and had a role to play. Everyone was active in some way or another. If you had gone to their church meeting you would have found that each person was coming with a hymn, a word of instruction, perhaps a revelation. This group of people was light on leadership and strong on involvement. The New Testament tells that there are 69 different ‘one anothers’ – love one another, serve one another, encourage one another and so on, all different. Now where did these take place? Not in those rare big meetings where they could gather in their hundreds but in their homes where the 5 to 15 people cared for one another, exalted one another and this what a visitor would have experienced.

The Need for Small Groups

So, the question is, do we need this type of environment, perhaps church is fine as it is? There was perhaps a time when church attendance was 70% of the population but now, with church attendance hovering between 8 and 9%, the majority of churches are not growing. Even with professional leadership, beautiful buildings and regular church services this is not enough.

It is commonly agreed that for us to change the status quo we need to mobilise our workforce, i.e., the church members of the UK. We know that Sunday is not enough so perhaps it is time for us to make some radical changes and return to church in the small as well as the big. We need to let the ’one anothers’ loose, we need to see small groups as a place where people learn how to participate and have confidence in their involvement, where each person thrives and gets a sense that God can use them. Where all church members can be encouraged in their everyday interactions to be a witness to friends and neighbours and where they work.

The latest Talking Jesus research has shown us that the general public have a negative perception of the church as an institution but a very positive perception of church members. This booklet ‘Small Groups an Introduction’ is designed to be given to every church member so that they can see the place of small groups, realise what they are perhaps missing out on and create a hunger for people to join small groups. It is my firm belief that if we have church in the big and small working in partnership, we can change our nation again.

Small Groups an Introduction is an essential read for every church member and is available from Cell UK.