Thinking About Small Groups

In the exciting early months of a church plant, the temptation is strong to generate a lot of activity—to identify leaders, to position people for ministry—to get people going! We’ve tried to resist this temptation, and as a result our focus has been quite simple: pray diligently, focus on the Sunday meeting (and especially the preaching of the Word), build relationships, and reach out to non-believers—and these are priorities which won’t change over time.

However, the membership process we’re in now naturally raises questions of structure: with our membership defined, how will we continue to develop? What meetings will we have, what groups will we form, what ministries will we organize? As pastors, we’ve been giving this much thought and prayer, and we’ve interacted with many of you about it as well. Here are two thoughts about this process. First, although we have decades of experience on our pastoral team, we do not assume we know what this should look like! We don’t want to impose an artificial template of “what church life should look like” upon SGCL and force the church to squeeze into this mold.

Secondly, our focus in this season is not simply “getting small groups in place,” or any structure for that matter. Rather, we want to think carefully about the purpose and function of small groups and what role they should play at this point in our church’s life. Here are three of the most important functions of any structure in a church:

Structures are means by which to accomplish biblical priorities. The bible is short on specific prescriptions for church structures but rich with priorities and imperatives for living life in light of the gospel, both individually and together. Beginning with these priorities helps us to discern what structures will enable us to fulfill them, given who we are as a church—our members, our location, our context, our gifts, etc. This also protects us from the mirage of mere activity masquerading as fruitfulness.

Structures position people to apply the truth of God’s Word. God’s Word is to be the standard of our lives as individuals and as a church. No measure of faithfulness is more important than the degree to which we’re applying the truth of Scripture to our lives in their many dimensions. Effective church structures help us align our lives with God’s revelation, thereby acting as channels through which the life of the Spirit can flow.

Structures position people to use their spiritual gifts. Every Christian has spiritual gifts, and every Christian is joined to others: “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Cor 12:18). Any structures we put into place should take into account the gifts in this church and seek to position people to serve in accord with their gifts.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it gives a feel for how we’re thinking about small groups and other potential structures in SGCL. We’re not interested in mere forms or directionless activity or sacrosanct traditions. Whatever groups we form or meetings we hold or ministries we organize, they must meet some basic criteria: serving the people of this church and positioning us to extend the mission of the gospel. Please join us as we pray about these exciting prospects.