Using Small Groups as a Strategy for Church Growth
Travelers to Alexandria, Indiana have the opportunity to see something unique. Hanging in a shed in Michael Carmichael’s backyard is the world’s largest solid ball of paint. For over 35 years, Michael has applied coat after coat of paint to the ball. Today, the ball weighs over 1500 pounds and has more than 23,000 coats of paint. Visitors even have the opportunity to apply a coat of paint and record their contribution in a log book.
Interestingly, the ball of paint is not technically a solid ball of paint. The project began when Michael and his three year old son first put a coat of paint on a baseball. The baseball at the core is now so buried under layers of paint that it has been all but forgotten.
The Great Commission is a call to make disciples who are obedient to the commands of Christ. Disciples make more disciples! This missionary principle was at the heart of Sunday School in its earliest years. Yet over time, many layers of activities, traditions, preferences, routines, and
many other good intentions may have hidden the core from view to the extent that it has become forgotten. Like Michael Carmichael’s paint ball, nobody remembers the baseball anymore.
How can leaders keep disciple-making at the core of Small Groups? Consider these ideas:
Teach for Application
The Great Commission’s definition of disciple-making involves teaching people to obey the commands of Jesus. Our focus on teaching must move beyond the transmission of information and toward the learner’s response. Leave adequate time in group meetings to discuss practical ways that class members plan to put the lesson principles in action.
Get Groups Smaller
When groups are large, too many people can attend every week as passive observers. Smaller groups increase the opportunity for participation and the likelihood that close relationships can develop in which learners may feel more comfortable sharing personal responses. Even large classes may be able to divide into smaller groups for discussion that leads to more personal application.
Let People Share Their Stories
Instead of jumping right into a new lesson each week, take time for learners to share how they are growing in Christ. Use email or other communication systems to let the class know you will be asking for some to share. Social media is a great way for class members to immediately share how they are finding ways to apply what God is teaching them.
Be a Sending Class
Celebrate those who grow in the Lord to the point that they feel called to leave the class and
serve in other areas of the church. Especially champion those who respond to God’s call to start a new group. Hold the desire to serve and reach others as a high expression of following Jesus.
Involve Multiple People in Leadership
Greeters, teachers, fellowship hosts, outreach leaders, prayer leaders, mission coordinators, and
care group leaders are just a few examples of jobs for people in Sunday School. Using leadership
teams in Sunday School encourages spiritual growth.
View Evangelism as Essential to Discipleship
Discipleship is not simply about helping believers grow deeper. Discipleship includes a desire to
see the class grow broader through outreach. Those who are growing closer to Christ will naturally want others to know Him. Keep this vision in front of your class and form intentional strategies for reaching the lost.