Ask people in attendance what is the purpose of their Sunday School or small group and you will receive a variety of answers. The three most common responses are: Bible study; fellowship; and ministry. Many times the leader of the group feels trapped. Is my group about evangelism or discipleship? Bible study or ministry? What exactly should I be accomplishing in small group; or am I supposed to accomplish anything at all?
One way to determine what is most important is by measuring how much time is spent in each area when the group meets. The most obvious struggle that a small group leader has is between content and community. We all deal with this issue. Our group needs fellowship and we all have that inner desire to belong to something. God has wired it into our spiritual DNA. On the other hand, we need to experience God through the study of His Word. We need content.
One thing that we sometimes miss however is that content and community actually compliment rather than compete with each other when it comes to disciplemaking. It is much easier for a small group leader to deliver content within the context of relationships. When a group is experiencing community, the opportunity for people in the group to understand and apply Scripture is enhanced. In fact, community is basically the bridge that enables
the group leader to deliver the content.
Likewise, community needs content and our content is the Bible. True community forms out commonality. Name any community and you will find commonality. A bowling league has bowling as its commonality. Organizations form out of commonality or common causes. Political parties are another example of group commonality.
It is vital that a small group or Sunday School class develop its community from the correct commonality. We find this commonality in the Bible and a biblically functioning group will have the Gospel as its most binding commonality. The Gospel, the true content of a biblical small group, is what we build our groups upon. The Gospel levels the playing field for a Sunday School class. In the Gospel, we are all sinners in need of God’s grace that is provided by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Gospel removes the barriers of race, pride, economic status, and special privilege.
In your Sunday School class, recognize that a proper balance of content and community is vital to the spiritual health of your group. Community enhances content, and content gives meaning to community.
Bob Mayfield is the Sunday School and Small Group specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Bob also serves as the Interim Minister of Education at First Baptist Church in Edmond, OK. Bob writes at his own blog at www.bobmayfield.com and you can follow Bob on twitter @bobmayfield