The first step in starting a Christian Small Group is deciding what type of group you want to create. There are several basic "Small Group Models" you should be aware of. (See immediately below)
The next step is to think about the "Biblical Structure" of your Church and Small Group. The"Biblical" based structure can be either Jethro or Moses. (See at bottom of page)
MAJOR SMALL GROUP MODELS*:
1. Open Small Group: Space is always available for visitors and new members.
Advantage: Outreach friendly and encourages a focus on evangelism. More flexibility.
Disadvantage: Limits potential for deeper intimacy, accountability & trust. Can become "too" large
2. Closed Small Group: Number of participants is closed.
Advantage: Stronger discipleship and spiritual growth. Deeper intimacy and trust.
Disadvantage: Can hinder evangelism and can become overly "inward" focused. Less flexibility.
3. Cell Groups: Views small groups as the basic unit of a church congregation. Focus on "Worship, edification, relational evangelism, and discipleship".
Advantage: Cell groups are a practical and effective way to build a culture of "discipleship" within a local church.
Disadvantage: The emphasis on evangelism and numerical growth can potentially limit the level of trust and intimacy within a group.
4. Free Market or "Interest" Groups: Groups formed around "interests or affinities" such as fishing. running, reading or sewing.
Advantage: Starting a group is easy and effective for Evangelism. Leaders form the vision based upon own individual passions/skills.
Disadvantage: Groups may not be focused on spiritual formation/growth and are often transitory,
5. Sermon-Based Groups: Links a church's small-groups ministry with the weekly sermon/worship service.
Advantage: Provides repeated exposure to the material covered in church. Group Leaders are freed from burden of creating curriculum and drives sense of community/unity.
Disadvantage: Pastor must finalize sermon at least six weeks in advance. The potential exists for Group discussion to turn into a critique of the Pastor's Sermon.
6. Host Groups: Leaders are recruited as "hosts," they do not carry the spiritual responsibility for the Group. Hosts may be trained later than Leaders.
Advantage: New small groups can be formed quickly and provides a way for potential leaders to "ease in" to the responsibilities. Teaching can be "high quality".
Disadvantage: Potential exists for churches to recruit hosts who are not ready for the leadership responsibility. Groups can appear and disappear quickly.
7. Organic Groups: Created as a reaction against highly programmed/structured models. Favor of a more natural method of building community.
Advantage: Provide and alternative where "traditional" small groups have not worked. Allows church/group leaders to minister in ways that best match their gifts and passions.
Disadvantage: Can seem chaotic and confusing to those familiar with traditional group models. Can result in lack of group and leader "accountability".
8. OTHER MODELS:
Neighborhood Groups: Based on Geography
Purpose Driven Groups: Based upon Rick Warren, Saddleback Church.
House Churches: Small Groups become elements of the church
* Small Group Models from: www.smallgroups.com
JETHRO or MOSES BIBLICAL STRUCTURE*:
Moses Structure: At that time I said to you, “You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone. The Lord your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as many as the stars in the sky. May the Lord, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised! But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself?”
- Deuteronomy 1:9-12
Jethro Structure: “Choose some wise, understanding, and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.” You answered me, “What you propose to do is good.” So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise, and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you—as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials.
- Deuteronomy 1:13-15
* Small Group Biblical Group Structure: www.smallgroupresources.org/coach/
Advantage: Create "full bodied disciples" of Christ. Culture of discipleship & relational evangelism.
Disadvantage: Can elevate Small Groups above other ministries. The level of evangelism can limit trust and intimacy.