The Danger of Small Group Systems

The Danger of Small Group Systems

Home Groups, DNAs, Missional Communities, Community Groups, Life Groups—whatever your church calls them, let’s not put too much weight on them. They may break. Bear with me.

I’m not saying small groups are unimportant. I’m saying we need to be careful in how we view, speak, and teach on small groups. You’ll hear people speak of their small group systems as the nitrous booster that sped up the health and growth of their church. “What’s y’all’s small group structure? You doing missional communities?” These aren’t the kinds of question we should be asking. But as churches become over-industrialized, we tend to think more in structures and systems than we do in values and verses from the Bible. 

It’s not like Paul forgot to include weekly participation in a small group in his letters. But Paul included the call to community, fellowship, and love for the glory of God (Col. 3:12–17).

Beyond Small Groups

I hope you’re sitting down for what’s coming next. You probably are, so:

You can have a vibrant Christianity without a Home Group.

This doesn’t mean you can opt out of your group. It’s meant to put things in their proper orbit.

Do you think Charles Spurgeon had a vibrant and flourishing walk with Jesus? Yes, of course. And yet, somehow Spurgeon could live a Christ-exalting life without a Missional Community. He had community. He had fellowship. This is what we are after. It may happen in a group structure but for others, it may not and we’ve got to be okay with that. We’ve crashed the system if we value the system more than the value for which the system exists. (Read that again if you must.)

There’s a real danger in elevating a small group system over biblical values of community and fellowship. I’ve heard of churches requiring commitment to their version of small groups for church membership—talk about adding to grace, amiright? 

Community Groups aren’t commanded in the Bible. Weekly Small Groups aren’t lined out by the Apostles. Missional Communities aren’t the eleventh commandment. You’ll hear conference speakers and others rave over these strategies and systems like they were also discovered with the Dead Sea Scrolls. We need to remember what we are really pursuing here.

Community is The Call

If we aren’t careful, we can become small-groupies—modern-day Judaizers who define righteousness and maturity with attendance to a group.

Small Groups aren’t the value, community is. Community groups aren’t the aim, fellowship is. Community, fellowship, love, and one-anothering are commanded in God’s word. So, let’s not confuse the horse and the wagon, the arrow and the bull’s eye, the fork and the food, the road and the destination.

You can’t have a vibrant Christianity without community, fellowship, and one-anothering.

Systems and structures are helpful but they can’t guarantee that fellowship and community are happening. We can get so obsessed and near-sighted with our way of pursuing God’s commands that we eclipse what we are called to pursue in the first place.

We have small groups at our church. They are a good way to help foster the biblical call to community and fellowship. Small group systems are a way of seeing this happen in a local church, they aren’t the only way. Small groups can help pursue the goal of community, and if they do, we should do them. If they don’t? Renovate, recalibrate, restructure, rethink, re-something. 

Jesus isn’t looking for the “Community Group” slot in your weekly schedule. He’s calling for much more. He’s calling for lives of fellowship, community, encouraging one another, and so on. Resurrected lives are more than time slots. The gospel empowers us for this end. Let’s chase it.

Up Next:

What does it mean for Jesus to be your Shepherd?

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