I’ve had a hard time finding an introductory sentence to use here to talk about equality. I guess that goes to show how politicized the word and concept has become. We’ve been taught to value and promote equality in our society, but perhaps there is a time and place when equality should not be our goal or purpose. Perhaps there is a time when inequality can actually be preferred and beneficial. I believe such a time and place is the small groups ministry in our churches.
People use the term “small groups” to refer to almost anything these days. When you hear the term it could refer to a group of any size intended for any purpose. So, when I talk to church leaders and they begin to talk about small groups I have to quickly determine just exactly what they are talking about. Sometimes, I just have to stop and ask them to define what they mean by “small groups”.
Without elaborating, let me say I think small groups are important; they are essential for accomplishing many aspects of ministry in the life of a church; but they are not all created equal--and that’s a good thing. They are a lot like my tool box in my garage at home. My tool box has many tools that are designed specifically for different tasks. Oh yes, I can drive a nail into the wall with a pair of pliers, but a hammer works much better! So it is with small groups. There are several different kinds of small groups and they are most effective when a specific kind of small group is used for a specific purpose. Confused yet?
Here is a great article by Rick Howerton entitled Starting a Small Group Ministry. He begins by saying that once you can determine what you want your groups to accomplish you can then conclude what kinds of groups you need as part of your small groups ministry. He then talks about six different kinds of small groups and moves quickly to the important point that once a church determines what kind/kinds of groups they need they will then know what curriculum to use, who to recruit for leaders, and how to train them to lead.
Let me encourage you to not get polarized in the “Sunday School vs. Small Groups” debate, nor distracted in the name game of “what should we call our groups”. Just be careful to identify the intended purpose of your various groups and then let that purpose determine everything else about them.
Until next time…share the journey and enjoy the ride!