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iddle Voice Small Groups What are small groups?

A small group usually is six to twelve people who meet regularly for spiritual support and encourage one another through worship, prayer, outreach activities and the application of the Bible's message to life. Many of us have experienced the power of small groups by joining in regular Bible studies, prayer groups, pastoral care groups or other small church groups.

A typical outline of a small group session:

  • Greet one another (5 minutes)
  • Prayer (2 minutes) (read together Prayer Book prayer)
  • Video, reading or introductory discussion (10-20 minutes)
  • Group discussion with outline questions/facilitator (45 minutes)
  • Identify roles for next meeting (facilitator, refreshments)
  • Group Prayer time (ask what do we need to pray about and discuss before beginning prayers)
  • Social time/refreshments

Why are small groups important?

Church growth statistics show that it is even more important for individuals to be involved in small groups that apply Christian messages to daily life than to attend worship. Attendance is better in small groups than in corporate worship; attendance in small groups improves attendance in corporate worship. Each of us needs the inspiration, instruction and universal vision of the larger Church; and each of us needs to integrate and express our relationships with God and one another through a closer interaction with other growing Christians. Small groups are an essential part of our Christian journey.

Jesus primarily uses a small group to form his disciples.

Small groups were the basic building blocks of the early church. "Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved" (Acts 2:46-47).

Small groups are powerful because "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." (Matthew 18:20). We experience the presence of our living Lord in our small groups.

What happens in small groups?

Small groups are wonderful settings for:

  • Relationships to develop and mature: small group members build relationships with one another as a family
  • Providing pastoral care: individuals may discover the love of a supportive community. A small community of faithful people is looking after the spiritual and pastoral needs of each member and the church can grow without sacrificing responsibility and accountability to individual members.
  • Promoting discipleship: small group members grow together and support and encourage one another in walking in relationship with Jesus
  • Growing the body of Christ: small groups affirm that all Christians are ministers and that the work of ministry is performed by each of us; opportunities for leadership development, gaining experience in witness and ministry.
  • Discerning spiritual gifts and God's call: individuals discern and follow their unique vocations as members help each other live out faith in everyday life, to use each of our spiritual gifts for helping one another.
  • Reaching out in evangelism and witnessing: Active small groups tend not just to focus inward on their members, however. Their excitement in their faith causes them to ask, "Whom do we know who would enjoy being part of a group like ours?" As we develop true community with each other we are also enabled to reach out together to others in the world. Small groups thus help the church grow. If most church members belong to a small group of about six members and if each small group adds one new church member per year, a church will double in size within five years.
  • Christian formation: individuals grow especially through faith sharing, becoming rooted in the gospel and scriptures and centering their lives in prayer
  • Building a strong foundation for the church: Churches find that attendance percentages are much higher in small groups than in common worship. When small groups are strong, a church can survive and even grow and thrive in spite of any political, economic, social or internal turmoil. This was true of First Century churches and many others since.
  • "Hearts burning, eyes opened" experiences: individuals experience the power of God's presence in their lives.

In small groups, individuals may discover the love of a supportive community, become rooted in the gospel and scriptures, center their lives in prayer, experience the power of God's presence in their lives, discern and follow their unique vocations, and, eventually, gain experience in witness and ministry. In the larger church setting, love, community, relationships, ministry and evangelism spring up less naturally, personally and powerfully than in small groups.

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