Incorporating Both Large & Small Group Strategies
A tension should exist in the Christian Education ministry of the church in how to meet individual needs and yet not totally fragment the body.
Grouping according to like factors into smaller groups has biblical precedence and many benefits as well.
- Jesus Himself modeled discipleship on the small group level with His disciples.
- Meeting in smaller groups tends to promote a friendly and more personal atmosphere.
- Study and ministry can be more intense in a smaller group.
- Fewer people allows for greater interaction and feedback.
- Individual needs are more likely to get met on this level.
Typical groupings and strategies to reach individual needs and interests tend to be:
- age level
- (Sunday School classes, children's clubs and youth groups, senior citizen's ministry)
- (discipleship, mentoring, ministry training, school or day care program)
- (women's ministry, men's ministry)
- (small home groups, service projects)
- (computer lab, music & arts, sports ministry)
- marital status
- (singles' ministry, married couples' classes, divorce ministry, ministry to widows and widowers)
- needs or problems
- (support groups, topical Bible studies)
- spiritual gifts
- (ministry teams)
- spiritual maturity
- (new believer's class, Bible institute program)
While breaking people into groups according to age, needs, interests, or abilities can be helpful, we must be careful not to totally fragment the body.
Everybody meeting together on the large group, corporate level also has biblical precedence and many benefits.
- Gathering people together corporately helps people realize that they are a part of a whole. Life does not merely revolve around them and their needs.
- True unity is built out of diversity. In the large group setting people with different backgrounds, gifts, needs, and ages come together as one in Christ. Being unified by like factors isn't anything special. Coming together with one heart and mind with all these diverse factors takes a supernatural work.
- Group worship is optimal in a large assembly. A sense of awe can grow as many people join together to praise the Lord.
- In a world that tears apart the family, the church can help pull them together.
- Certain people may be reached in the large group that will not participate, at least initially, in a smaller group which they perceive as more threatening due to increased possibility for participation.
A combination of the large and small group seems to model the early church (Acts 5:42 and 20:20).
The tension between the two can be healthy in keeping us balanced and in keeping us relevant and in the moment. At different phases of the church's life, we may be pulled closer to one side or the other. The objective, however, should be unlike a game of tug-of-war. We should never completely cross the line to either side. Our Christian Education ministry should not be all small groups completely fragmenting the body. Nor should it be solely the large group experience, never zeroing in on specific needs.
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