This will be a critique of small groups. Not exactly a critique but maybe more of an observation of how I have witnessed small groups working and how I think they could be working better. I believe the concept of small groups as part of the church could be beneficial for the church. The problem I see with the most small group models is that I am not sure the vetting process for leaders of small group leaders is as extensive as it should be. And small group curriculum should not be limited to the questionnaire handout provided by the church.
We are considering becoming small group leaders in our church. I believe that the Lord wants us participate in this way because I believe that we can be used to edify the church and educate them in orthodox biblical beliefs. I think to limit small group discussions to the past Sunday sermon topic is not use the time effectively. The small group we currently go to is ok but I have more knowledge of the bible and a better understanding of biblical doctrine than the couple who lead the group. I usually stay quiet because I don’t want to appear to dominate the discussion or appear to be showcasing what I know. I make comments here and there but I generally stay on topic. But I see that there is a greater need to share more knowledge beyond the Sunday sermon.
Small group tends to be a time of talking about problems they are having in their life and how they leaned on God to get them through the tough times. This is good and the church I grew up in needed more than this type of interaction. My parents tended to not become too involved and I think it was a detriment in the overall picture. Church shouldn’t be a time of sharing gossip on Sunday mornings and then move on to the rest of your week. Members of the church should meet regularly outside of the church so they socialize and build better relationships, and small groups allow that to happen. But they need to be more than telling stories of how we can trust in God.
Small groups need to morph into a time of sharing concerns and times of blessing. They also need to be a time of learning and where people can learn more about the God they depend on and the Lord and Savior they serve. Solid study of scripture independent of the church curriculum should be encouraged and not discouraged. Believers should not be stuck on being fed milk. They should be moving on to meatier portions of bible doctrine and orthodoxy. Serving is important and teaching that one’s emotional problems can be handled by God, but learning about God and increasing one’s knowledge of God has a much greater value.
I believe that topical sermons only deal with one part of God. We need to know all about our Heavenly Father, all His attributes and the importance of how they are necessary part of His essence, His holiness. When we deepen our understanding we deepen our understanding of the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on our behalf. This is where studying the bible can increase that knowledge. It is more than reading a passage and then pasting that passage over our problems. As He becomes the center of our lives then our problems necessarily move further from the center.
Pastors should not discourage bible study groups. Pastors should not inadvertently imply that they should be the primary source of information regarding our Lord and Savior, and what the bible teaches. That is the same thinking the Roman Catholic Church had for a thousand-plus years which led to the Reformation. Churches should allow members to be free to study their bibles and should employ trained teachers who can correctly answer questions and keep people orthodox in their beliefs.
Small groups can have big benefits in the spiritual growth of a church, which should be the primary focus of all churches, not just number growth, and equipping the saints for service in fulfilling the great commission of making disciples and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.