My wife and I have attended or led small groups for 23 years now, but I have to make a confession. Until recently, I didn’t enjoy being in or leading a small group.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in small groups. They are essential for discipleship and life change. But I thought that maybe I was weird or just plain sinful for not liking groups. Then I started talking to other people who felt the same way and that was when I questioned, Why do I, and many others not enjoy small groups?
Defining a Small Group
As I began to process this, I discovered that I didn’t have a problem with the small group… I had a problem with the way small groups were defined for me. I had always thought that a small group had to be a group of 8-12 people doing life together. Anything less than eight wasn’t a full-fledged small group; anything more than 12 was too big for a small group. Then one day when our staff was discussing this issue, we decided that we needed to define small groups.
We decided that for our church, a small group is two or more people who gather on a regular basis, with a designated leader, who are living out the five purposes (worship, grow, connect, serve, share) together and are helping each other take the next step spiritually. Hidden in this definition is what I believe to be the key to helping those who don’t like small groups to fall in love with small groups: “A small group is two or more”.
What we have learned is that one size does not fit all. So, we decided that there would basically be three types of groups that can serve as an entry point into small groups for our church. Each of these groups has their own unique advantages.
Truly Small Group
The first group is a truly small group. This group consists of two or three members. How many times have you heard a group leader bemoan the fact that only two people showed up to his group? I have actually known many small group leaders that have quit leading a group because they felt like a failure when only 3-4 people attended. We now tell our leaders that it’s okay if only two people show up…that’s a win! Although this may be much smaller than what we typically consider, for some it is actually the best entry point into community. In this size, group members typically grow closer faster, feel safe enough to be vulnerable about life struggles, and have true accountability. This is the size group that my wife and I enjoy the most.
Mid-sized Small Group
The second group is a mid-sized small group. This is your traditional small group with approximately 6-12 members. This size group is the best entry point into community for many because they don’t feel singled out when they walk into the group for the first time. While they may not connect with everyone in the group, it is highly likely they will find someone they have something in common with and feel comfortable. The mid-size group offers different perspectives and is likely to have people at a variety of spiritual maturity levels that can learn from one other. While it is bigger than the small small group, it is still small enough to have meaningful relationships with others in the group.
Large Small Group
The third group is a large small group. This group consists of 15 or more and may grow as large as 40-50 people. While this actually sounds like a small congregation, it can actually serve as a great entry point for those who are uncomfortable with the concept of small groups. These groups work best when a leader introduces a topic and then breaks into 4-6 sub-groups for the discussion time. The advantage of this size group is members have the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people and are more likely to find someone they will enjoy getting to know. Also, breaking into sub-groups creates an ideal setting for multiplying future small group leaders.
So, if you have people in your church who simply don’t like small groups then it may be time to create new entry points for community. Implementing a multi-size group approach can open the door for growth and development for many who previously would simply not engage.