By Polly House
Genuine personal transformation best takes place in a small-group setting. People rarely change in large groups because large groups don’t offer opportunities for intimate relationships with others.
That was the message of the inaugural 4G conference sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center July 23-26.
The conference focused on four groups in the local church – Sunday school groups, small groups, discipleship groups and missional groups – and how each of them offers something different to its members. One person might belong to any or all of these groups at any given time.
David Francis, director of Sunday school and discipleship; Bruce Raley, LifeWay’s director of leadership and evangelism; and Rick Howerton, LifeWay’s small- groupologist, briefly described these groups:
- Sunday school is the church’s Bible-teaching ministry and offers a balance between foundational discipleship and evangelism. These are open groups, meaning anyone is welcome at anytime.
- Small groups excel at creating community and relationships. Small groups are usually closed groups where a few people (generally 12 or fewer) develop close, meaningful relationships.
- Discipleship groups traditionally study a Bible-based curriculum that leads members to a deeper understanding of a spiritual concept and transformation into Christ-likeness. These groups can be open or closed.
- Missional groups are generally formed around specific tasks that take members outside the church walls to impact others. Examples include a mission team on a specific mission trip or a ministry such as English as a Second Language classes. These groups can be open or closed, short-term or ongoing.
For extended definitions, see “4G: Definitions of the four groups.”
Conference attendees had the opportunity to learn from various experts specializing in each of the group types.
Until next time...share the journey and enjoy the ride!