“Everybody needs to be in a small group.” Our church members and attendees have heard me say those eight words for over three decades. I relentlessly challenge and encourage people to not only participate in large groups but also participate in small groups. Both groups serve different purposes, and a believer needs both of them.
The number one reason I “bang the drum” of prioritizing small groups is that Jesus made the small group a priority in how He went about building disciples. Jesus trained His disciples in small and large groups, knowing they would one day change the world. Jesus knew that the spiritual transformation that occurred in His disciples would not have been possible without the role of the small group in their lives.
Not only is a small group a priority because Jesus used one, but it is also the model used in the original Church in Jerusalem. The Church in Jerusalem started with 3,000 people, creating needs that could not be met in a large group. They needed places to share, learn, and pray for one another. In that first church, they met in homes as small groups. Acts 2:42 describes that experience: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” There is no question that these things worked better in the small group environment than in the large group environment.
The first church was a growing church and a multiplying church. People were becoming disciples quickly; therefore, the need for more small groups would have been mandatory. In the New Testament days, the Church had to get larger and smaller simultaneously. As the large group grew, the small groups also had to multiply. The same principle is true today.
I find it interesting that we see the need for small groups in other areas of life but reject it when it comes to the spiritual side of life. Here is what I mean. A parent would prefer the smallest teacher-to-pupil ratio possible regarding a child’s education. If you wanted to learn to play the guitar, you would prefer taking lessons one-on-one or one-on-one with an instructor. When working out with a personal trainer, you would prefer personal instruction and not group instruction. Spiritual development happens best in a small group as well.
Jesus’ small group was only twelve individuals who spent most of their time together. They walked together, talked with each other, ate together, and did ministry together. After spending three years together, these individuals were ready to accomplish the most significant mission in history. They undoubtedly learned a lot in being with Jesus in the large crowds, but they were transformed by being with Him in a small group. What Jesus did reminds me of a statement I once read by Howard G. Hendricks, “You can impress from a distance, but you can only impact up close.” I couldn’t agree more.
At Impact Discipleship Ministries, we love helping churches establish small discipleship groups that teach the character and conduct of Christ. Check us out at impactdisciples.com for more information, training, and resources to help you become a disciple-making leader.