By Chuck Lawless
As a pastor, I learned early that small groups are essential to a church. They provide opportunities for growth we could not offer in a large group setting. Members cared for each other when I could not possibly be there to meet every need in the church. More specifically, small groups became a central player in our church’s evangelistic strategy.
Most healthy churches have both open groups and closed groups. Open groups use an on-going curriculum that allows guests to enter the study at any point; emphasize evangelism, with the goal of becoming an entry point for guests; and strive to grow enough to multiply at least annually. Closed groups use a set curriculum that limits entrance once a study has started; typically meet for a set number of weeks; and emphasize discipleship, with the goal of strengthening a believer’s walk.
The problem in most churches is this: open groups become closed groups when steps are not taken to avoid this direction. Because evangelism is difficult, many open groups see few unbelievers attending their group. The evangelistic focus thus quietly disappears as the group slowly becomes closed.
How does a church make sure that open groups remain evangelistic?