The Huge Value of Small Groups

April 12, 2010
Some churches call them 'small groups,' others go with 'life groups,' or you might see them as 'community groups,' or even 'house churches.'  A pastor friend of mine calls them 'SOMA Life.' What are these groups?
Usually these small groups work in balance with the larger mission of the whole body of Christ's Church.  While the local church typically meets together in a formal, corporate worship setting (most often on Sunday), it's difficult to live life in the trenches with each other, getting to know the community in an intimate way.  Therefore, smaller groups will meet, usually mid-week and sometimes more than once a week, to study, worship, serve, and live out life together.  Some churches use these groups merely as small-setting classes or discussion forums, often not cutting through the facade we use to hide our personal ugliness.  In other churches, the small group is the foundation or lifeblood of the church.  Churches that do not have any kind of small group activity are greatly missing something.  The church my 'SOMA Life' friend pastors, "prays to be a church of small groups -- not a church with small groups."

Sometimes the groups will work through a study guide from the previous week's sermon, other times a group might have a specific teaching purpose, or shared growth objective.  They're typically set in people's homes, so some groups are shaped by geography.  People that get the most from this format of church actually see these groups as little churches within the larger context of the Church and even the local church body.  Not only do small groups sometimes work though study questions, they might share a meal together, sing and praise God, read Scripture, pray, cry, laugh, learn, grow, and some will share in the Lord's Supper.

Pastor Kyle Costello (right front in the above photo) and Pastor Kevin Rogers (standing on the fireplace hearth taking the above photo), took some time last Sunday to discuss their experiences in past small groups.  Their past groups were extremely strong communities, akin to family.  They then set out to share their vision of a church plant in Salt Lake City just now trying to take root.  This little plant is starting as a single 'house church.' It's community at its prettiest ugliest.  The idea is to rip off the pretty mask we wear with others and get to the real, sometimes ugly, us. Then the real us, living together like family, can move together in the sanctification process.  In the coming weeks, they will continue to outline how they believe this community house church will take shape.  If you're interested, please check out the Salt Lake City Project

On occasion, I've heard that the house church format is what the New Testament actually intends the church to be.  This is primarily based on how the Church took shape in the Book of Acts.   While it is true that we see first century churches meeting in houses rather than in a communal building, this is not necessarily normative.  We should remember that the environment was rather different than ours.  They may have met only in homes out of necessity.  (I especially like that once Paul determined he was gaining no ground in the Synagogue in Corinth, he started a house church in Titius Justus' home right next door to the Synagogue. See Acts 18:4-7.) Not long after Constantine converted to Christianity, the church was free to transition to formal, communal buildings.  Interestingly, while it may have been persecution and resources that required house churches, it is apathy today.  It is also important to remember that the Book of Acts records the believers meeting daily and tells story after story of the believers living difficult, real life together.  If anything, it would have been more problematic for them to meet everyday.  It makes sense that they would not have recorded their shortcomings and ugliness in the Bible, yet they did and for good reason.  So we should learn a great deal from their actions.

Community should not (in fact, it is not) defined simply by meeting in a communal building for 2 hours each Sunday.  Yes, we should be meeting corporately, often, weekly, maybe more; but we should also be living and meeting together in a small group community of some sort, seeing each other, maybe daily, as we live like Christ's community of believers.  We should long to live out life with each other.  Small groups are part of a life that encourages this.