Yesterday I re-posted a 5 year old article I wrote in conjunction with a blog series I did with my former small groups pastor, Frank Chiapperino. Here was Frank’s outstanding response to what I wrote. Tomorrow I will post on what’s happened at CCV in the last 5 years since this conversation.
by Frank Chiapperino, Guest Blogger
I have been working with Brian at CCV for quite some time now, and it is a pleasure to work with someone that is so driven to reach the lost and make disciples. As our small groups champion I have seen both of these things happen in group life at our church. I am excited to interact with all of you on the topic and I hope we learn from each other.
Here’s My Take:
Brian, every ministry model has it’s weaknesses. Small groups are no different. They have their weaknesses and I wont pretend to hide behind them, but there are some benefits to small groups that cannot be ignored:
- Help the big feel small – It is no secret that there is one major fear people have in going to a large church: no one knows them! Small groups change that experience. Every Sunday my wife and I sit with a couple from our small group and I see over 100 others that do the same each week (and that’s just the people I know).
- Pastoral care – group ministry is the front line of pastoral care in the church. Group leaders and members are the first responders to crisis in a large congregation. There are many emergencies that occur in our church that I am the last to hear about because our small groups have jumped in and handled the situation before word of it even made it to me.
- Evangelism – We have to stop thinking of small groups as “Bible Studies.” We have groups at CCV that facilitate relationships that result in evangelism and one of the groups you said in jest – “your knitting circle” – we’ve actually had! New people have been attending CCV as a direct result of the following affinity groups: softball, kids play group, volleyball, dog walking, tennis, scrap booking, etc.
- High priority communication – Do you need to get the word out fast about something important in the church? Leverage the small group ministry network. On numerous occasions we have done this about an important change in the church or even aiding with communication for a capital campaign.
- Volunteer network – I can’t count how many times we have utilized our small ministry to rally the troops to get a job done. Just this week I was in a staff meeting where we were discussing our Kids’ Camp this year and our prop person was happy that one of our small groups showed up to help out with building props last week. And remember we would not have been able to staff our kids program when we experimented with our Saturday night service if it weren’t for entire small groups volunteering to serve on Saturday nights together.
What About Discipleship?
In my opinion, the place where most churches and ministry leaders go wrong is they expect discipleship to happen through one program or ministry of the church. Instead, the best way to approach discipleship is through EVERY program and ministry of the church. A small group is just one environment (among many) that aids in discipleship.
If all our discipleship efforts are expected to happen in the small group environment we are fooling ourselves and you are 100% right. However, the group environment does provide opportunities for new relationships to form where discipleship can happen in and outside of the group.
In numerous experiences I have had, and observed, the small group was the vehicle for the relationship that resulted in a person’s discipleship process.
Are small groups flawed? Yes, but so are we.