You’ve probably heard it said, “get 2 Baptist together and you have 5 opinions.” The same is true concerning the name used for a church’s small group Bible study strategy. Fifty years ago every church called their Sunday morning small group Bible study “Sunday School”, but that’s not true today. For me, it really doesn’t matter what you call it because I’m more concerned with what you are trying to accomplish.
Every church has some type of small groups strategy and again I’m not so much concerned with what you call it as I am with what you are trying to do through your group. For me a “group” is any small gathering that meets at any time and at any location for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus. Every group should be focused on reaching non-Christians and maturing Christians.
Most church members are surprised when they discover that well over half of the churches in America have less than 75 in attendance every week. In America we have a tendency to think that if it’s BIG its better but that’s not necessarily true of a church or a small group. So what’s the ideal size of a small group? The generally accepted size of a small group is 8 to 16 in attendance and a class is no more than 20.
Through the smallness of your group or class it is possible to really know other and at the same time to be really known by others. In the small group its possible to more effectively care for the entire church and to be cared for by the church. In the small group/class we have the opportunity to discuss scripture and to be personally challenged.
Did you know that even non-Christian groups use the term Sunday School to describe their small group gatherings on Sunday? Just having “Sunday School” is not enough; we’ve got to be about the mission of making disciples of Jesus. In my experience about 75% of the Sunday School classes in the typical church are “small” but still they may not be accomplishing the goal of making disciples.
I’ve heard people say, “its impossible to develop relational biblical community and/or authentic Christian fellowship in one hour on Sunday morning.” They use this a criticism of Sunday School and they are right! If all a class does is meet for one-hour on Sunday morning then I can pretty much guarantee that they are not making disciples of Jesus. Do you think that Peter, James, John, Andrew, Phillip, Thomas, Matthew, and the others would have done all they did to spread the Gospel after spending one-hour a week with Jesus?
In many churches they use the term D-groups to describe their small groups. The “D” is a nod toward the goal of discipleship. The goals of these D-groups are …
- Devote yourself to being a disciple.
- Declare your identity in Christ.
- Develop spiritual disciplines.
- Display Christ-like character.
- Defend your faith and share it with others.
- Disciple others beginning with your own household.
- Deploy your gifts in missional ministry.
- Depend desperately upon the Holy Spirit.
I agree but any group that is not seeking to achieve these goals is missing the biblical mission given to all by Jesus in Great Commission.
Is your class too big to be making disciples of Jesus? Are you content just to have your class meeting for one-hour on Sunday?
Dr. Smith serves as a state missionary with the Georgia Baptist Convention and is the Sunday School/Small Groups Specialist. Visit their website at gabaptist.org/groups for more information and other resources to aid your Sunday School or small group ministry. You can also connect with Dr. Smith at gabaptistgroups.org, facebook.com/GABaptistGroups or twitter.com/GABaptistGroups.