Whether you call them Sunday School, small groups, connect groups, life groups or discipleship groups, nearly every church I have ever heard of, has groups.
The question is, what is their purpose and where are you trying to take people spiritually in these groups?
If you haven’t pondered why you do groups, and what different types of groups you may need, January is a great time to tackle that exercise.
My friend, David Francis, whose job is to know all about groups at Lifeway, gave us some great information last week I thought might help you.
He told us there are two reasons churches begin groups:
- To accelerate spiritual growth
- To develop leaders
He also gave us a great definition of an open group: a group that expects new people to be there EVERY week.
Normally, these are the groups that meet around your worship service each week. Hopefully, what you’re studying is self-contained each week, so that a guest to your church could walk in and feel comfortable engaging in the lesson or discussion. If you’re three weeks into a six-week Bible study, that’s a bit tougher. Usually, these kinds of open groups, like Sunday School groups or small groups, help accomplish the multiple goals of fellowship and spiritual growth if they are done right.
One important point to consider: If you don’t have open groups as a part of your church experience, it’s going to be awfully tough getting guests comfortable and meshed into the life of your church. A very small percentage of people who attend your worship services as guests stick, grow as believers and get involved in the regular life of a church. It takes an open group to do that.
You also can have open groups that meet in locations other the church building. The premise is that it’s easier to get someone who is outside the church to come to a home Bible study. That’s true only if the leaders and churched participants in the group make it that way. If not, it’s just different. It’s a a covenant, grow or closed group.
Convenant groups are also essential part of any church. If you want to help people grow deeper and to help them become leaders, you need a different kind of group. Maybe the content is of primary importance to people who are already believers. Maybe you have people in your church who are ready to launch their own group, but they need some basic Biblical grounding. Or maybe a group of people just need some specific biblical help around the topic of parenting. They could be open or covenant groups, depending on what your strategy is for that specific group. Normally, covenant groups are set for a specific period of time — six weeks, eight weeks, etc. — and there is a pre-set goal for a piece of knowledge or skill you will acquire.
If you don’t have covenant groups, you probably don’t have enough leaders. If you need leaders, it’s time to intentionally develop them through covenant groups.
One important concept to understand. A group can’t be both open and covenant in nature. You have to choose which one a group will become.
That’s probably too long a blog post, but here’s where you come in. Tell me what kind of groups your church has, what your strategy is for these groups, and how they work.
I will be interested in knowing how groups work in your church.