If you have small groups, great! Consider the following points as a way to evaluate and perhaps improve their effectiveness.
If you do not have small groups, please consider the following 4 ways that small groups foster relationships.
1. Small groups help build relationships by connecting people who would not otherwise connect.
The church is God’s household. It is made up of people at different stages of life including nuclear families, singles, youth, children, and seniors. Effective small groups reflect this diversity and provide a natural way for all of these gifts, needs, abilities and interests to connect for mutual benefit. Without small groups (especially in churches with a fair number of individually-focused programs) these connections would scarcely be made.
2. Small groups provide a natural way for elders to equip household leaders.
God’s ministry blueprint puts a significant emphasis on the leadership of elders and heads of household. Small group ministry provides a natural context for elders to establish relationships with the heads of household for the purpose of equipping, encouragement, and accountability for leadership in his home.
3. Small groups provide a way for the elders to ensure that each person is being cared for.
With all of the individualized activities taking place it’s easy to assume that everyone is connected and being nurtured. But this often leaves us with a false sense of security. Something bad happens with a particular person. Yes, he was involved in programs, but apparently out of relationship and thus on his own. Tragically, people in this situation just slip through the cracks. Small group ministry provides a way to faithfully oversee the entire body. For regular discipleship and when a person is facing a challenge, everyone, most especially the other leaders, know which elder is responsible for helping the person or being sure that the person is getting the help they need.
4. Small groups increase full participation.
Small groups should not be just another program on the ministry buffet that people can take or leave. Given their purpose, participation should be expected by everyone. On this point, Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer PCA in New York City once said, “Small groups are not a program of the church. They are the church (emphasis added).” Keller understands what’s at stake: real transformation in the life of the believer to the glory of God. This requires relationships. There is no way around it. Note: when the culture of the church prizes and emphasizes relationships like we see in the Bible, participation becomes a natural decision.