What Small Groups Are Not

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My last post about discipleship in a church plant discussed the importance of building community through small group ministry. It’s not enough to just know what small groups are, but we also need to know what they are not. In the next few paragraphs, I would like to take a minute to discuss what small groups are not.

If you are like me, you have probably had a bad small group experience at least once in your life. You know the kind, where some weirdo takes over the discussion, or where the leader allows too much time of awkward silence. There is nothing worse than a bad small group experience. In fact, this is the reason why so many people are reluctant to be a part of a small group. As group leaders, our job is to protect our small groups and make them a safe place where people can share, grow, and learn together. We train our small group leaders to watch out for the following five landmines, which can destroy a good small group.

They become a gossip group.

Small groups are not a place to talk about others; rather they should be a safe place that is free from gossip and condemnation. People who attend a small group should feel free to come as they are and share openly and honestly. If we are not careful small groups can degenerate into a gossip group that will tear down instead of build up.

They become a one-man show.

The leader should not do all the talking. Encourage others to participate and share in the group discussions. In the past, I have been to some small groups where only one person does all the talking. When this happens no one wants to share much less attend. An effective small group leader encourages everyone to participate in the times of discussion.

They become a place to complain about the church.

Small groups can become a sounding board for disgruntled people to complain about the church. This is not a place to complain and slander the church. If people have a problem with the church, they need to share it with the church’s leadership, which is biblical. Train your leaders to protect the unity of the church by not allowing upset people to use the small group as a place to complain about their problems.

They become a place for crazy people to take over.

Small groups can attract crazy people who will hijack the group if you let them. Do not allow people to get off the subject by chasing rabbit trails. Whenever people start getting off track in the discussions, bring them back quickly. This requires a lot of discernment and grace. A good leader can keep people on track and the discussion moving.

They become an end in themselves.

Sometimes small groups become a social club. They should not become an end in themselves. Instead, small groups should reach out to new people in the community where we live. Small groups should seek to serve and bless the community around us.

Encourage the people in your small group to reach out to others. Begin thinking of creative ways that you can serve together as a community group and be a blessing to the community where you live.

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Winfield Bevins has a passion for equipping others to spread the gospel in their own context. He serves as the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. As a seasoned practitioner, he has used his experience to train leaders from diverse backgrounds on three different continents. He frequently speaks at conferences, churches, seminaries and retreats on a variety of topics. He is the author of several books, including Plant: A Sower’s Guide to Church Planting. He and his wife Kay, have three beautiful girls Elizabeth, Anna Belle, and Caroline.

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