Our church has begun a process to initiate Small Group ministry. Though I am familiar with the “whys” and the methods of small groups, I am by no measure an expert. Fortunately, we do have in our church others who a far more knowledgeable than I am about the implementation of this aspect of ministry. Still, the early going has been difficult.
People in our church are not sure why they need to be part of this type of group. Our church has been blessed to have strong relational ties and a welcoming mentality that easily embraces those who join us. At our church “outsiders” are relatively few – and those who are probably are so by choice. So those who are active in our church seem confused about why they need “one more activity”.
Again, I do not have all the answers. I can articulate the benefits of a committed small group, but sometimes my explanations are found wanting. Fortunately there are others who offer better counsel. One person in particular: John Piper.
When John Piper met with the small group leaders of the Downtown Campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church, in Minneapolis, he tried to show them how essential their role is at the church by giving them seven reasons why his preaching is not enough—seven reasons why perseverance in faith and growth in faith call for Christians to meet regularly in a face-to-face way to “serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).
Piper says: “God intends to do things in us which he will only do through the ministry of other believers.”
Here are Pipers’ 7 Reasons We Need Small Groups:
He has given pastors to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
I believe in what I do. And I believe that it is not enough. Here are the seven reasons I gave the small group leaders.
- The impulse to avoid painful growth by disappearing safely into the crowd in corporate worship is very strong.
- The tendency toward passivity in listening to a sermon is part of our human weakness.
- Listeners in a big group can more easily evade redemptive crises. If tears well up in your eyes in a small group, wise friends will gently find out why. But in a large gathering, you can just walk away from it.
- Listeners in a large group tend to neglect efforts of personal application. The sermon may touch a nerve of conviction, but without someone to press in, it can easily be avoided.
- Opportunity for questions leading to growth is missing. Sermons are not dialogue. Nor should they be. But asking questions is a key to understanding and growth. Small groups are great occasions for this.
- Accountability for follow-through on good resolves is missing. But if someone knows what you intended to do, the resolve is stronger.
- Prayer support for a specific need or conviction or resolve goes wanting. O how many blessings we do not have because we are not surrounded by a band of friends who pray for us.
Piper goes on to say:
So please know that when this small-group ministry of our church is lifted up, I don’t think it’s an optional add-on to basic Christian living. I think it is normal, healthy, needed, New Testament Christianity. I pray that you will be part of one of these small groups or that you will get the training and start one. This is the main strategy through which our pastors and elders shepherd the flock: Elders > small group leaders > members to one another.
I could not have said all that better myself.