Are Groups Really Important in Your Church?

I believe groups (classes, Bible fellowships, etc) should be important to churches because God has supernaturally ordained community to sanctify His people. God, who is an eternal community of three Persons, created community for our benefit and His glory. And small groups help believers live in community with one anther.

Though most pastors say that groups are important, the research for the upcoming book Transformational Groups revealed that for many churches there’s a major discrepancy between the stated importance of groups and the actual priority. For many churches, contrary to what is articulated, groups are really not that important. At least two alarming facts were discovered:

For many churches group content is treated haphazardly.

The majority of pastors and church leaders have no clue what is being studied. In fact, almost two-thirds of pastors tell us that the person primarily responsible for selecting the curriculum for the group is the group leader, and a large number of those do so without any oversight or direction from the pastor and/or staff. In most cases not only are group leaders not given studies that are built on a particular theology and discipleship strategy, but they aren’t given anything: not a plan, not a recommended resource list, nothing.

Now if the church has a group training mechanism in place on the front end and group leaders are tested and vetted theologically, are taught to choose resources in accordance with the theology of the church, and are equipped to think strategically about a spiritual growth plan for their group, then handing the responsibility to the group leader would be empowerment. If, however, the above doesn’t exist, there is ministry negligence. A wise pastor would never treat the teaching from the pulpit with that type of haphazard planning. And group content shouldn’t be treated this way either.

As a leader, you must guard the doctrine of your church—that means caring about the content that is being studied in groups.

The majority of church attendees don’t believe groups are that important to the church.

Though pastors say that groups are important to the church, sadly the majority of church attendees don’t say the same thing. In other words, in many churches groups being important is largely an aspirational value for church leaders and not actual in the culture of the church. Church leaders should ask themselves why the people in the church don’t consider groups more important. The following questions could be helpful to consider:

  • Are the pastors and leaders in a group?
  • Do the people in the church continually hear about groups?
  • If someone wanted to join a group today, what would you tell them to do?
  • Are stories of transformation occurring in community shared with the church?
  • In comparison to the weekend services, how much energy is poured into group strategy, leader training, etc?

The reality is that most church leaders devote much more energy to the worship services than to groups. Caring less about the worship gathering isn’t the solution; caring more about groups is. In worship gatherings that are grounded in Jesus, God supernaturally uses the preaching of His word and the worship to transform hearts and affections. And in groups grounded in Jesus, God supernaturally uses the community to mature His people. Both are important. Both should be important to your church.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

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