Came over from Bro. Maynard's because I was struck by the title....
Just two weeks ago it occurred to me why my six-year experience in leading a large small group ministry (had 100 groups at the most successful time) was thwarted.
I resonate with those who say that the definition of small group is not standard, and I would wholeheartedly agree. For some is it another Bible Study. For others it is prayer group. For yet others it is food and fellowship. We tried to embrace whatever definition each individual group wanted.
It didn't make any difference because the end was the same: there was rarely any multiplication of groups. Rarely any growth of disciples who made disciples. Rarely any leaders apprenticing new leaders who would then birth a new group.... all too familiar to all of you, I'm sure.
I was convinced that my problem was not enough small group leaders. Isn't that were we all get stuck? Not enough people willing to step up to the plate and lead....
But I have come to believe, instead, that it really comes down to life transformation ... I read one comment above that talked about it ... and it was the rare group where lives were truly transformed. I would go so far as to say that MANY are touched and encouraged in small groups, as testified above, but not many are transformed into disciples who make disciples on a natural, ongoing basis.
And then I read three books by Neil Cole. His "Organic Church" in November of 2006, "Cultivating a Life for God" in February of 2007, and I just finished his latest, "Search and Rescue", last week. Have you read these books?
It is the concept Cole calls "life transformation groups" that get the job done, in my opinion. These are groups of two or three (men and women in separate groups) who meet for 1 hour a week for three things: 1) to see what God is doing in their lives through the reading of the significant passages of scripture (20-30 chapters per week) they have agreed to read, 2) to be accountable to each other for their actions and weaknesses and confess their sins when they fail, and 3) to pray for two or three people to be responsive to the wooing activity of the Holy Spirit.
Cole's second book is small and solely dedicated to these LTGs, as he calls them, and they are described in context in the other two books.
There is a place for the small group of 8-15, just as there is a place the the larger groups for fellowship and the largest groups for teaching ... but if people are not engaged at the LTG level, there just will not be the same level of transformation -- in themselves and in others.
Wesley and others have done similar things with classes and groups, but I think Cole is really onto something here.
Thanks for letting me share.
CovenantClusters will be built on a form of LTG called WordClusters. I am more convinced than ever that this foundation will make a huge difference in everything else that happens.