Small Groups 101: Church Groups

The 101 version of small groups is run by the church.  A local church promotes participant interest, recruits leaders, distributes curriculum, and schedules the meeting time for each small group.  One church will loosen the reigns from this while another tightens, but the general rule is that Church Groups are run by the church.

Pluses for this model revolve around harmony and ease.  Some neat learning opportunities exist when small group discussions overlap Sunday preaching.  Harmony also exists here in that small groups are a great outlet for building on social connections formed on Sunday mornings or special events.  It’s an easy system in that joining is as quick checking the box “sign me up.”  It easy on the leaders as well in that people, schedules, and curriculum all get handed to them. 

Downsides to Church Groups is dependency, discouragement, and force-fits.  Some leaders become dependent on staff, becoming more of a “middleman” than a leader.  Other leaders become discouraged, wanting to achieve bigger goals and set bigger plans than what is being handed them.  Participants also become discouraged at times when trying to relate intimately with a group of relative strangers. 

Church Groups only become as big as their staff leader and local church.  The scope of small groups would broaden quickly if structured to become as big as each member and the local community. 


  1. Has leading or participating in a Church Group discouraged you?
  2. Does the practical ease of Church Groups compensate for the limitations they create?
  3. What could Church Groups do to make their scope broader? 

3 responses to “Small Groups 101: Church Groups

  1. With regard to your questions:
    1. Answer: Yes to both leading & participating. I led one group which was a 7-week commitment, and I was disheartened when not one of the participants honored their commitment to attend all 7 meetings, for reasons of ‘too tired,’ not up for it’, etc, and didn’t always bring their book with them, and so on. I was a newbie Christian and they were more advanced than I was in their knowledge of the Bible, so I was rather disappointed. Participating in women-only groups was overall a very good experience, but I found myself desiring more focus and intentionality from the participants.

    2. I don’t think the ‘practical ease of Church Groups’ creates any particular limitations. Even without any restriction from the Church staff, the Group leader her/himself can limit the group by their level of dedication, or actual knowledge, etc., as can the participants also create limitation.

    I did find it a little frustrating when the Group was studying a particular subject, and then the Church announced they wanted a particular church-wide study for X-number of weeks, and then the Group had to put aside our current study. But that’s certainly not a deal-breaker.

    I don’t see the church staff putting together the groups as a ‘force-fit,’ because we are all brothers in Christ, and if we can’t commune together in a Group, if our love-walk is that shaky, how can we witness for our Lord to the outside world? I also wonder that if Small Groups are formed with no relationship to a Bible-based church, we might unintentionally move to a more worldview of salvation and God, because the Groups are made up of people at all levels of faith and different prior teachings/beliefs.

    3. Take advantage of the myriad resources from worldwide ministries online. The reading materials and study guides are wonderful. If we really want to broaden the scope, I say promote activism on the part of those Group participants who are willing. “Go ye . . . . and teach”! Give them links to websites where we can read documents and sign petitions, such as Nation for Marriage dot org, or American Family Association, Christians United for Israel, and so on. Perhaps educate ourselves on what corporations are giving thousands of dollars to organizations which promote agendas in direct opposition to the Word of God. And we can call and email our senators when legislation is coming up and let them know how we want them to vote.

    Thank you, Brian, for creating this great forum.

  2. Joanne Cogswell

    Has leading or participating in a Church Group discouraged you?

    I would have to say I have had the same experience as Ellen, which was frustrating at times for me. I branched out and found the opportunity to join another group where there was more focus and intentionality from the participants.

    Does the practical ease of Church Groups compensate for the limitations they create?

    I take the “practical ease” to mean that the group members come together because they are all united in the same church-going experience. This can be somewhat of a limitation in that the group can fall into a social or community group with less emphasis on studying or discipleship. On the flip side, if a group that already is social in nature forms solely on the grounds that they will study the Word together I think the focus is less likely to get lost.

    What could Church Groups do to make their scope broader?

    Open up to folks not attending the same church and maybe even risk including those with different ideas.

  3. Dedicated involvement by group members often does make or break the group’s future. Although the group gatherings can continue on any given day short a few people, the future looks a little dim without a strong relational fabric being fostered.

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