I remember hearing Lyman Coleman, author of the Serendipity Bible speak at a conference. The very last point of his message was most poignant to me. He said, “the end of small groups isn’t small groups.” Too often we are more focused on keeping a group going and growing in numbers rather than moving deeper in love and character.
Many years ago, I was one of the leaders of a small group that ballooned to over 60 people – a small church more than a small group you might say. Though our intent was to start meeting with a fraction of that number, we had an open-door policy to always allow new people into the group. Members would invite friends who would then invite their friends. We had nonbelievers who had never been to a Sunday service now encountering Jesus through small group, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to facilitate intimacy, transparency and authenticity within the group as the numbers grew.
Our midweek, not-so-small group gathering had to meet in our church building because the house we originally met at was not large enough to cater to so many in one living room. For a season, we were blessed to have use of the church facilities to meet, while we scrambled to figure out another solution. The church leaders advised us to find a meeting place away from the church building to foster the house vision they wanted us to model. We were forced to figure out a way to quickly find people willing to lead and host smaller groups. As a last resort we reached out to all attendees. It never occurred to us to just outright ask newcomers to open up their homes, but they did. We had several new homeowners, each eager to have people over. So we were blessed to find homes to meet in, taking care of a huge need.
At churches with a large single adult population, you might find it easy getting a large group of people to one place for an event or series. It’s a different challenge getting smaller subgroups to continue meeting beyond the event. What are some creative ways to help those groups transition away for the large gathering into homes or other more intimate settings?