There isn’t just one way to start a small group, nor is there just one type out there. That’s why it’s okay to small group shop in the early stages of your small group journey. In hindsight, my early small groups have served as stepping stones on the path to clearer focus for small groups.
Many churches, for good reason, design small group programs focused on two main things: increasing membership and having a distribution channel for church campaigns. For many great biblically-based churches, that doesn’t make their preaching, teaching and even discipleship efforts disingenuous. It’s just a smart church growth strategy. But very few churches that I’ve visited know how to deal with what I call small groups 2.0.
2.0 Small groups are those groups that go beyond just meeting once a week or simply follow along church-wide campaigns. They tend to be more active in the church community, and sometimes grow and branch off into multiple small groups and ministries. I see examples of them in my church.
Because of the failure of some churches to provide strong mentors and discipleship training for 2.0 groups, they can become more insular in their fellowship. An exception is Jesus Otaku which I wrote about in my last post. They recently became a church based ministry. It’s a thriving community that is growing in number and influence. So much so that you can no longer call it a small group, though they pretty much look and behave like one in the way they spend time with each other and love their members. They are a group of like-minded individuals who are singularly focused on the Gospel. They are able to find a support network for growth and discipleship training within their group and through the greater church body, but this is not the case at all churches.
I just spoke to an individual this weekend at wedding about the small group he’s leading at his church in New York. He strikes me as an individual very much on the path to a 2.0 group. He’s taken classes and training outside of his church, which is fine for a group that might not have access to the type of resources and training a large mega church may have. Even with large mega churches however, many resources and training for discipleship may be hard to find. I feel very blessed to be a part of a rare church that is dedicated to equipping even its lay members with a wealth of learning and training, but many groups may need to reach out beyond just resources that are available to them at their home church.
2.0 small groups have to intentional about recruiting and singularly focused people when they start. They all have unique personalities and gifts, but they need to be like-minded, and they have to be themselves. The moment you find your singular focus, you should seek out people with the same focus rather than trying to sell your idea to someone that is only half-hearted. In fact, that singular focus is a truth or vision that probably shouldn’t be revealed to everyone at the outset of your group. It might just be for the foundational members of your 2.0 small group to know and understand. You can have members who buy into the idea and want to support what you are doing and together you can all share your big dreams in small group, but the core team needs to be singularly focused.
To clarify, when I say singular, I mean unique or extraordinary. A singular focus is not necessarily a single focus but rather something God-inspired. I have a singularly focused group that I meet with regularly—my small group 2.0. We are trying to fulfill the great commission in our unique way, but are very like-minded and we know what we are trying to accomplish. Do you have a small group 2.0? Are you trying to start one? If so, what’s your singular focus?