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Should You Put Small Groups Out Of Their Misery?

an excerpt from Brian Jones: A few years ago I brought in a nationally recognized pastor to do some consulting for our church. One of the things I remember the most about my time with him was a side conversation we had about small groups.

I haven’t really figured out the small group thing,” I confessed to him.

“Well, Brian, that’s because they don’t work.

Small groups are things that trick us into believing we’re serious about making disciples.

The problem is 90% of small groups never produce one single disciple, ever. They help Christians make shallow friendships for sure. They’re great at helping Christians feel a tenuous connection to their local church. And they do a bang-up job of teaching Christians how to act like other Christians in the evangelical Christian subculture. But when it comes to creating the kind of holistic disciples Jesus envisioned, the jury’s decision came back a long time ago – small groups just aren't working.”

“Finally,” I said, “I’ve met someone who’s got the guts to euthanize this small group sacred cow.”

I have been leading, participating in, championing, and applauding the efforts of small groups for the last 20 years of my ministry.

But now I’m done.

In my opinion they just don’t work.

And I’d like to talk about why. And why we pastors keep pushing them, as well as some thoughts as to what we could possibly replace them with.

I believe in creating disciples

…And I believe that this is what the church is called to do

…But in most instances disciples are created in spite of the small groups people participate in, not because of them

…And the problem is NOT the incredible staff members like Frank who lead
them in churches, or the sacrificial and godly people who serve as individual small group leaders, or the willing and committed people who participate in them, but the “wineskin” itself…an outdated structure who time has come to die

So I’d like to spark a conversation about how we can collectively address this problem.

And we would love it if you’d join in with us.

Read the rest HERE

my thoughts...

We have come to a similar conclusion here at The Vine Community Church. Small groups don't develop disciples. But we are still committed to them because we have altered our expectations. Small groups do have value.

Small groups are a doorway into connection and relationship within the church.

Small groups are a catalyst for service into the community.

Also Small groups become one of the fishing ponds that discipleship can be birthed from.

Currently we are going after discipleship with much intention. And the think that we tell the disciplers is that small groups provide a springboard for discipleship to take place. Of course the definition of small groups are broad. Home groups, men's groups, women's groups, serving groups, common cause groups - etc...

So we still have small groups, but we don't sell it as the tonic that will cure everything that ails you. Rather intentional and relationship driven discipleship must be happening throughout the DNA of the church in order for people to grow.

(ht: Brian Jones)


To say this this post was thought provoking would be a real understatement. Thanks so much for pointing out and commenting on Brian's article. I really need to do some reflection on the purpose/methods of small groups and discipleship. Some initial thoughts from my small group and I have been posted at
- I can't imagine ever not being a proponent of small groups for reasons you mention and others, but I can see that the overall discipleship process in churches is in need of some help. -- Larry

Great thoughts! At our congregation we did away with small groups because they became "comfortable." We are a small congregation and had two groups going with 15 people each. The attendance numbers remained the same and the groups never grew.

When we went to a traditional Wednesday Night Bible Study, our group grew and we are developing leaders now.

Just my thoughts.

That was very courageous to do...but the right thing, I believe.

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