There are tons of ways to accomplish the small group vision of your church. My personal experience and study shows that sermon based groups, where each group dissects the sermon from Sunday, or at least a group model that is all studying the same materials, creates disciples that are more grounded and a church that is more unified. I know that sermon based models aren’t terribly popular in pentecostal/charismatic circles so I want to give a few reasons why I believe in them! Let me clarify what I mean by sermon based, because even within this there are different models, all of which I will tell you are valid in my opinion.
The first is sermon based curriculum developed by the small groups pastor. This is really only feasible with a full-time staffer, through interns, or with a staff pastor that has a lot of extra time. The second is leaders developing their own material from the sermon. This low control requires high accountability. Have them send you what their teaching afterwards and serve your leaders by helping make it better. This means you are going to have to have leaders that you can trust! This is easier if the lead pastor is an expositional preacher that follows the text. If the pastor is more topical encourage your leaders to grab ahold of one main scripture and develop their teaching around it. Third is across the board Bible curriculum. I have a strong conviction that if we are going to have a Bible study…then we should use the Bible. Whether this curriculum is developed in house (recommended) or is bought make sure it is rooted in scripture and has scripture as the primary focus. This is probably the easiest route, though it won’t create the type of unity that using the sermon directly will.
Also, as a small groups pastor I want to resource those of you that serve in this type of ministry so I’ve made my Community Group Leader’s Packet available at the end of this blog! It’s a combination of a few churches whose systems I respect as well as our own DNA at The Summit.
1) Shotgun vs. Rifle
Shotguns make a bigger bang and they are effective at small range. This is representative of the small groups that operate on a quarterly rotation with groups based off of interest and not the Bible. You can have anything from book clubs to dog walking to actual Bible studies, but reality bears out that shallow community forms in quarterly groups and unless you’re in one of the legit Bible studies, then you never go deep into the Word either. Most aren’t Bible based Community Groups, their interest based social clubs. They make a loud bang but aren’t effective for the long term.
Sermon based small groups are the rifles. They may not be as glamourous or loud, but they are greatly effective at long distances. Isn’t that the goal of groups? To create deep community that studies the Word to the point they become solid disciples? Sermon Based groups accomplish this. They don’t meet for 2-3 months and then thats it, have fun, go find another group. Tell me, what kind of community group can establish the depth needed to tackle deep issues in 3 months? I mean, Jesus ‘small group’ met for three years and still had issues.
We believe that long term, sermon based groups produce the most solid disciples.
2) Synergy & Unity
I am a strong advocate of the power of unity within every aspect of church life and leadership. When the church is unified a synergy is created headed towards one goal. The same is true of groups. When all the groups are pursuing the same course of study and diving into the Bible together, their is a unity and synergy around that truth that will impact the whole church as we pursue it together.
No matter what group someone belongs to, since there is unity in discipleship they can discuss with one another how they’re growing and what they’re learning, which increases discipleship efforts across the board. And when their is unity in discipleship there begins to be a unity in pursuit. This group model can serve to increase church-wide hunger as we pursue the same things.
3) Lifestyle of Application
Sermon based groups put a pressure on groups to ‘do the word.’ Sunday after church you already know what is coming. You already know that you’re going to be asked ‘how do we apply, and hopefully how did you apply, what was taught Sunday?’ This creates a culture where we not only pay attention to the preaching more but we also digest it after we leave because we know our group is serious about growing and discipleship.
4) Ask Away
One of the things I love most about the sermon based model is that it creates a venue for questions about the sermon. You can’t just raise your hand, stop the sermon, and ask your question on Sunday morning. But in sermon based groups you can get your questions out and get good discussion going while you get clarity about the questions you had.
5) I Preach Better
Knowing that the lion’s share of discipleship in the entire church is based off of what I prepare for Sunday morning causes me to prepare more, seek God more, and make sure our groups have something to talk about. This isn’t directly related to the groups, but it is an added benefit.
Still Not Feeling It?
Not everyone likes this model, but many I find don’t like it because they like the shotgun better. The fruit of long term, sermon based groups is not always readily apparent.
What about variety? People do want variety, but when it comes to impact in your teaching less is more. Do you want people to just have the option of a ton of groups or do you want to use the best model for long term disciples? Most church have ‘truth overload’ where every ministry is teaching and doing their own thing. Sermon based small groups plays a role in making sure there is a clear call at least from the main gathering of the week.
What if someone wasn’t there? This is a really great question! My answer is that just because they weren’t there doesn’t mean they won’t benefit. This is because in sermon based groups we don’t start with the pastor’s one liners, we start with, stay with, and analyze the text.
Is it just review? When the curriculum isn’t done right it will be, but when questions about the text are crafted correctly it doesn’t rehash the sermon, it builds on it.
What type of group model does your church use? Oh, and don’t forget to download the free Community Group Leader Packet. Hope you enjoy it! Feel free to use as is or make it your own! Community Group Leader Packet