I was reading an article on Christianity Today and came across my exact understanding of small groups laid out in a really simple few paragraphs:
Okay, let’s all say it together: “We don’t want to be a church with small groups, but a church of small groups.” Everybody says it. Well, everybody but Mecklenburg.
We have found that small groups are very much needed by those who need small groups. Read that sentence again slowly. The truth is that many do not need them, and may not be best served by them.
We initially rebuffed this idea. Somehow it was sacrilegious to even verbalize the thought. In fact, small groups can become just as much a sacred cow to the contemporary church as Sunday school was to earlier generations.
We discovered instead that it is community that is taught in the Scriptures, not a programmatic methodology for achieving it. Yes, there were house churches in the New Testament, but this is a narrative insight, not a didactic teaching from Scripture. Early cell groups have more to do with the nature of the growth and culture of the early church than they do a methodological mandate.
We are not anti-small group. But small groups are not the answer for everything for everyone. We have had to learn to think beyond (read “in addition to”) small groups for assimilation, community, and pastoral care. Specifically, we’re rediscovering the lost art of one-on-one mentoring. We also encourage a team mentality and community spirit built around ministry activities.
When writing the copy for small groups on our new church website I wrote this:
We think small groups are great. We encourage everyone to be in Christian community where you are being encouraged and prayed with and prayed for. If that means an official small group, here are a few options. If you one of these options doesn’t work for you we encourage two ways forward. Either let us know and we’ll see if there is a need for a new group or gather some of your friends together and start your own. Just let us know how we can help.