Small groups are one of the most misunderstand ministries I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen them all.  Most small groups are just one of many programs churches undertake in an attempt to either reach more people, keep more people, or provide a needed form of fellowship and perhaps some Bible study. And in every case those small groups never achieve the churches goals. All they do is provide some badly needed fellowship for already existing members. We’ve long called these “churches with small groups,” which from a Kingdom viewpoint are useless. What is needed are more churches of small groups. The difference between “with” and “of” is the whole ball of wax. Let me explain.

The focus of churches “of” small groups isn’t on fellowship or Bible study even those both are always part of effective small groups.  The focus of churches “of” small groups is always making disciples who make disciples.  In other words – leadership.  Their purpose is to raise up leaders and release them to go and multiply ministry in some fashion, either starting another small group, or another church, or some other form of ministry beyond the local church meant to reach more people for Jesus.  Bible study and fellowship are simply bi-products. In churches “of” small groups all ministry revolves around the small groups. Based on this definition of small groups here is a list of typical characteristics of churches of small groups.

  1. Small groups are the DNA of the church and not one program among many programs. 
  2. Role of the small group is to identify and mentor a disciple to be released to multiply ministry beyond the local church.
  3. Small groups meet in homes because it is easier to invite people to your home rather than your church.
  4. The Pastor is ALWAYS in a small group.
  5. Each new small group is celebrated in some public way.
  6. Small groups and raising up disciples are part of the fabric of the preaching. 
  7. Small groups and multiplication are the primary thrust of the church if not the only one
  8. The Pastor is the primary culture architect. 

If your content with simply keeping your members locked up with the four walls of your church, then have a church with small groups.  But if you want to advance the Kingdom you want a church of small groups. It’s your choice.