What is an official small group in your church? Most churches technically already have small groups. You probably have a guest experience group that greets people at the doors on Sundays or serves coffee. You may have a parking group that gathers early on Sundays to pray before heading out to help people find parking spaces. You may also have a choir group, a kids ministry volunteer group, a worship team group, a facilities group, a security team group, and a variety of other ministry group possibilities. It would be easy to declare all of these ministry teams to be small groups, but they may or may not be meeting the expectations of spiritual formation in your church.
Before you declare your usher team an official small group in your system, examine all of your groups with these questions:
What is the goal?
Ministry groups may fill the purpose of serving, but if your goal for groups is making disciples, that is only one piece of the puzzle. Start with the end in mind and decide if your groups are designed to get you there.
Is there community?
A ministry group may have time to gather for a few minutes before they serve prior to or after a service, but are they experiencing real life-on-life community?
What is the content?
Unless a ministry team is also meeting outside of their normal service time, there is probably not enough margin for an in-depth study.
What are the essential elements?
A biblical small group should have essential elements that set it apart from every other type of group people could be a part of. Every group should have the foundation of discipleship, community, and culture-shaping built in.
What is the experience?
Have expectations of what someone will experience if they join a small group. Each element should be designed to help them take their next steps toward Christ.
How do you measure growth?
There is no way to know if your groups are meeting expectations without a way to measure it. An effective small group shows spiritual growth.
Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over 22 years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC, for 15 years. He is also the Small Group Specialist for Lifeway Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was recently released by Thomas Nelson. You can follow his blog at chrissurratt.com or follow him on Twitter @chrissurratt.