A member of our church had become ill, and Nancy and I went to the hospital to visit her. When we arrived, we were surprised to see several congregants already there, surrounding her bed, offering prayer support. When they left, we asked her why the congregants were there.
“Oh, those were members of my small group,” she said. “They just wanted to make sure I was doing all right.” In fact, she was doing fine, and was released within a day or two. And this proved that small groups had become an integral part of the community at that church.
Nancy and I first introduced small groups to the church we were serving in 1997, and have been champions of them ever since, in four Unity churches. I am convinced that small groups help churches create excellence in every way. Here’s why:
- They create doorways to leadership. A successful Small Group Ministry requires a Leadership Team, which means that congregants have a new way to serve the church.
- They create deeper community by connecting people who share intimate moments in prayer and spiritual discussion, getting to know one another on a new level.
- They help promote church growth—both in numbers and commitment. They provide safe, comfortable ways for people to share with others as they explore their own spiritual paths.
- They offer an open door for people to perform sacred service in the church setting. Nancy and I have seen small groups branch out in surprising ways to embrace community outreach projects, such as Habitat for Humanity.
- They create lasting friendships and a powerful commitment to the church. Nancy and I have seen members of small groups sit together at church services and volunteer together.
- A small group program during the fall, for example, offers the youth ministry a unique way of getting involved with adults. A youth ministry can create curriculum that mirrors what the adults are studying in small groups.
- A yearly small group program brings a church staff together, because the program requires close communication with all facets of the church—Sunday service, music ministry, youth ministry, ministry of sacred service, bookstore, and the senior and associate ministers.
- Finally, an engaging small group program exposes church congregations to new and different spiritual ideas through the study of books and curriculum that are challenging and inspirational.
So remember: If you want to enhance excellence in your church, think small!