CURE #2 – HOW DOES A CHURCH GROW S.M.A.L.L.?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

In this cure, as well as in all of the cures in this book, the prescriptions spell out the name of the cure. Here the cure is S.M.A.L.L., where each letter represents:

• S: Survey your small groups.
• M: Missionalize all small groups.
• A: Add more small groups.
• L: Lead small groups.
• L: Locate your focus in small groups.

A Comprehensive Definition of Small Groups

There are many ways to define a small group. When you ask most people, they will identify a small group as a home fellowship group like those made popular by the small group movement and exemplified by the body-life churches, vineyard churches, and alpha groups.

But small groups in churches are more than just home-fellowship groups, because any small group of individuals that is meeting semi-regularly and growing in closeness is technically a small group. Therefore, all of the following church groups are types of small groups:

• Sunday school classes;
• classes of any type (Bible, topical, and twelve-step programs);
• standing leadership committees;
• task groups (worship, program, project, ministry, and facility
upkeep); and
• fellowship groups (home groups, Bible studies, lunch groups,
alpha groups, and sports teams).

Therefore, to grow small, let’s begin with figure 4.1, a broad definition that ensures you don’t overlook any of the small groups you have already.

With such a comprehensive definition, you can see that you already have many small groups in your church. The key is to first survey them, and then to apply the remaining cures in this
chapter to help them refocus on a biblical purpose.

Survey All Small Groups

Now that we have a working definition of small groups, the next step is to use this definition to count them. Be careful not to miss any, because if you do, you cannot help them refocus on
their purpose. Figure 4.2 will help you total them. But if you have some small groups that have grown too large (twenty or more people), it may be necessary to divide them into several
small groups. See appendix 4.A for ideas about how to create new small groups.

Figure 4.1: A Comprehensive Definition of a Small Group

Any regular gathering within a
church’s fellowship network, meeting
more than one time a month with
typically less than twenty attendees.3
smaller groups within groups
that have grown too big for intimacy
and accountability.

Now use your definition above with figure 4.2 to count your small groups. Keep these guidelines in mind:

• Count only adult small groups at this time (teenage and above). While children need small groups such as Sunday schools, this
chart will look at how to expand and refocus your adult groups.

• List your small groups under the type of group that best describes them. And even though some groups could fit under
several different types of small groups (for example, an adult Sunday school class could also be a task group), list each small
group only under one type of small group. It is not as important that each group fits into the ideal category as that all groups are listed in figure 4.2 (use additional rows as needed).

Figure 4.2: Survey Your Small Groups

Name of small group

Average size

Adult Sunday Schools and Other Classes
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
(Use additional pages as needed)

Standing Committees
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
(Use additional pages as needed) continued

For More Information Read:

• Appendix 4.A: “Are Some Small Groups Too Big? Don’t Divide, Compartmentalize!”

Are you surprised? Most churches are amazed by how many small groups they already have. But as noted in the story of Eastlake
Church, this is why congregants often resist small group programs. When people are already attending an informal small group, such as a Bible study, Sunday school, committee, or sports team, they will often resist the idea of joining another small group.

Publicly Recognize All Small Groups

After surveying your small groups, publicly acknowledge…

Download the rest of the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Get Small Chpt. 3 & 4

#DWC