In this blog Jonathan McClintock argues the point for small groups.
In 2007 Joshua Bell, a renowned violinist—who plays to packed auditoriums around the world and makes upward of one thousand dollars per minute—put on a baseball cap, entered a metro station in Washington, D. C., and took his position near a trash can. He flawlessly performed classic after classic with his fourteen-million-dollar Stradivarius violin. A few passersby tossed money into his case. Although most ignored Bell, one woman identified him.
Only a few days earlier, he had performed to a packed house at Symphony Hall in Boston, where the average seat sold for one hundred dollars. But on this day, 1,097 commuters (minus the seven who stopped to briefly listen) walked right by without recognizing the obvious talent of this world-renowned musician.
The Benefits of Small Groups
Truthfully, this is not an unusual phenomenon. We frequently fail to recognize or appreciate the obvious because of distraction, disinterest, or maybe even over-exposure. Oftentimes, the more you see something, the less you see it. Therefore, we would do well to stop and rediscover the obvious.
Let’s rediscover some obvious benefits of assembling in small groups.
Benefit # 1: Sharing
Once a small group has established itself as a safe place, the members often feel encouraged to share struggles and triumphs. In a large church setting, space and time do not allow for this type of interaction. Instead, members find themselves at arm’s length of one another and on their own when it comes to seeking out close relationships. Sharing is the breeding ground for close connection.
Benefit #2: Close Proximity
The close proximity and interaction among small group members will encourage relationship building. It is easy to hide in a big group and not form connections. Some churchgoers can go unnoticed for months.
The small group naturally builds a “hiding-free” zone so that no one ever gets overlooked.
After some time you might say to yourself, “I haven’t seen so-and-so in a while.” However, the truth is, so-and-so has been there all the time, you just did not notice. That cannot and will not happen in a small group. The small group naturally builds a “hiding-free” zone so that no one ever gets overlooked.Small groups provide a platform for people to share their stories and tell how God has been at work in their lives. Click To Tweet
Benefit #3: Testimony
Gone are the days when pastors would surrender fifteen to twenty minutes of service time for testimonies from whosoever will. For understandable reasons many churches have silenced the in-church testimony service. Even though this silencing has helped manage what were sometimes unedifying or even inappropriate remarks at times, we have lost something valuable: true encouragement and edification that comes from personal testimonies. Small groups provide a platform for people to share their stories and tell how God has been at work in their lives. The sharing of a testimony and the feedback they receive from loving, caring group members help individuals formulate a message of hope they can share outside the small group setting.
Benefit #4: Family
How many times have you heard people express about your church or another church, “It’s just really hard to break in and feel part of it”? Hopefully your church does not have this issue and everyone who considers making your church their home feels welcomed. But if we are honest with ourselves and our church, we may recognize how difficult it can be for people to fit in quickly.
[T]he dynamics of a small group allow for quicker assimilation.
However, the dynamics of a small group allow for quicker assimilation. It is harder to sit along the sidelines and just observe for an extended period of time in a small group. The love for one another and the feeling of family is recognized faster in a small group. Most newcomers, if they stick around for any period of time, will be drawn in and attracted to the family atmosphere, and will, within no time, feel part of something they have been searching for.
Benefit #5: Accountability
Accountability—one of the most important catalysts for true spiritual growth—is something small groups can establish much quicker and easier than can be done in a large group setting. The rapport that is built naturally through the more “family-like” interaction of a small group tends to promote trust and the desire to help each other grow and mature in their walk with God.
Yes, these five benefits of small groups are obvious but are in need of rediscovery. Why? Because they are some of the more valuable characteristics small groups offer the ministry of the church. These five benefits will make the difference in the growth and maturity of each member of your small group family.
Jonathan McClintock is an author and the adult editor for Word Aflame Curriculum and The Discipleship Project. He also serves as campus pastor at Urshan College and Urshan Graduate School of Theology. Jonathan and his family live in St. Charles, Missouri.
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