Wednesday, February 26, 2014

small group myths

While there are many small group myths, Philip Nation summarizes 3 that would be toward the top of my list:
  1. Small groups are just for fellowship. Small groups must be an environment where people grow closer but not just for the sake of friendship. As believers, our fellowship deepens when it is centered on the truth. Fellowship is one of the functions of the church but it is not the ultimate reason for small groups. Transformation is. Small groups draw people together with a higher purpose than just hanging out in the name of Jesus. We want to draw people around His Word so they can be fed and then transformed by it.
  2. People in small groups should stay together indefinitely. In other words, breaking up a group is bad. The argument is made that “our healthy small group should not be separated.” But healthy group members will want to share with others what’s occurred in their lives. Conversely, it is also a myth that leaders just want to split every group for an underhanded reason; control, spitefulness, power-grabbing. In reality, we all know that healthy things grow and then multiply. As leaders, we also know that when things don’t grow, then they begin to drain energy from other parts of the body. Small groups are the same. Now, this is not to say that a small group that does not multiply is moldy, rotten, or cancerous. But it can be reveal an inward-facing spirit that runs counter to the mission of God. By engendering a spirit of multiplication, small groups will eventually reach more people for Christ and help more people mature in Christ.
  3. Anyone can lead a small group. I want to tread carefully in this one because it is so close to true. If the statement read, “Anyone can learn to lead a small group,” then we’ve got it. But, as it stands, it is a bit na├»ve. It comes back to purpose. If you buy into myth #1, then anyone can lead a small group. Just be there to host everyone for a good time and a quasi-spiritual conversation. But, if you want to lead people toward transformation, then as leaders, we need to produce leaders. Rather than just throw people into the situation of handling whatever comes up on their own, teach/train/prepare them to be a great small group leader.


dle said...

A few thoughts:

1. Nation doesn't give us a picture of what transformation in a small group looks like. Without that, this first myth debunking doesn't go anywhere.

2. I routinely report on groups of people who stay together "forever." I disagree with Nation. Those "forever" groups ultimately are more successful and satisfying in the life of the individual than a constant parade of temporary groups. The problem is, we have almost no examples of solid long-term groups because we're always busting up our small groups! Why not try for something longer lasting for once?

3. Some people are more naturally gifted as leaders. Period. You can't teach everything. Not every leader can be a facilitator of transformation, either. Again, some are good and some aren't, no matter the teaching they receive. Put people in their right gifting and role and stop expecting the eagles to swim and the dolphins to fly.

Rick Ianniello said...

Methinks the goal wasn't to thoroughly debunk but rather to simply highlight common thinking that he (and I) do not think are true. To the first point, I suppose it depends on what one defines as a small group. My definition is higher (from my perspective) than fellowship.

To the second point, I would never, never, never have a long-term group. The are counter to transformation, discipleship, etc.. You and I are far apart on this one.

On the final point, so you agree - not anyone can lead a group. You may not agree (like me) with him that anyone can be taught to lead but you at least agree that not anyone can lead. Also, I'm not sure he really thinks anyone can lead. I think he was simply emphasizing the equipping element.

dle said...

"To the second point, I would never, never, never have a long-term group. The are counter to transformation, discipleship, etc.. You and I are far apart on this one."

That assumes that one is part of no other small groups. That's a big assumption, though.

I think everyone needs a long-term group, one that bears burdens over time. Nothing can replace that. That's the only truly safe group.

But if people want to be a part of other groups to be transformational and discipling, then by all means! But that doesn't mean one should exclude the long-term group.

I was in three different small groups at once. That felt normal to me.

Rick Ianniello said...

As said, we are far apart ... with my ideal definition in mind, I'd ask you to pick one and if not ask you to leave. Of course I'd say that in brotherly love. :)