Even though many churches today have a small group ministry, it often remains peripheral to their core mission. Many churches are giving up on the notion that community is an essential component of a healthy Christian’s life.
I think this is a significant mistake. There is no biblical support for personal, autonomous Christianity. If we want to truly make disciples who advance the kingdom of God, we must not only see the importance of community, but we must understand it to be essential to the church.
Community is a gift of God’s grace and essential for the Christian life. Community is not a peripheral ministry. As culture reflects the values of its citizens, Community Groups reflect the values of the church. The church is constantly pulled to do so many things. It’s easy to neglect or devalue the tree of Community Groups within a forest of programs.
Defining the Center
If we are going to breathe life back into the community of the church and see it function as God designed, we need to start thinking differently. Social justice, overseas missions, youth programs, food banks, sports ministries, and so on are great programs, but they are not the center of God’s mission. They are support tools through which a gospel-centered community can intentionally engage the world.
The Hole in Your Center
If we put all of our energies into the tangential and neglect the center, we have no fertile ground where people can land and grow. I have heard such tangential ministries described as a funnel, drawing people into the church as they swirl toward the center. Ignoring the obvious metaphorical image of being flushed, the problem with a funnel is that it has a hole in the center.
Fittingly, this has also been my experience when we neglect building the body of Christ. In order to breathe life back into your small group ministry, you must have a clear sense of its value and importance in your church.
Focus on the Center
If we agree that community is essential for disciples of Jesus and that it is at the center of God’s purpose, then we must make it the focus. It should have a prominent role in the life of the church.
By making community a primary ministry within the church, it is elevated above peripheral ministries and gains momentum toward health and growth.