I am beginning my third year at a large, old, urban church where most of the members of my congregation live in neighborhoods very different from our “downtown” location. We are a church that has stabilized our membership, attendance and other “reportables” for the last ten years. As the Associate Pastor here one of the areas that fall under my responsibility is Small Group ministry. This is also an area that when I arrived people (Staff Parish Relations) told me they would like to see strengthened; and Holistic Small Groups was an area that was identified to be worked on in our last Natural Church Development survey.
I have been involved with small groups in the past and I know from first hand experience their value, I would probably not be where I am today had it not been for my first small group many years ago. I also have learned that the term small group means many things to many people. My goal has been to expand small group participation, after having immersed myself in the larger church community for this last two years. The problem is as it was when I arrived is what does this look like and how do I move a congregation that is 125 years old in that direction? Much to my dismay I have come to the conclusion that there is no magic pill that will allow this to happen.
I am going to define small groups in the most non-restrictive manner that I can. By doing this it is my hope to offer opportunities for membership and fellowship to as many people as possible. Also by defining in this manner, it will be easier for people to join different groups to meet different felt needs. My working definition is as follows: A small group is any group that gathers on a regular schedule (at least twice a month), where fellowship, spiritual interaction and practical help are present in various forms and quantities depending on the group. This definition may require some groups that are present in the church already to tweak how they operate to be considered a small group; while at the same time providing minimal “hoops to jump through” for a new group to form.
How does this definition fit your experience, and how could I better refine it for use in my situation?