I have been going to church all my life, often serving in some form of leadership, with or without an actual position. Being a leader in the church has helped my faith grow and given me a chance to influence others' faith as well. Yet, the periods when I have seen the most growth or felt more used by God to help others grow have been the times when I'm with an intimate small group of believers.
Little Churches Within a Church
Since Acts of the Apostles, the best churches in the world have been the ones where small groups of believers band together for worship, teaching, fellowship, and service (and often food). From the house churches described in Acts, through the monastic movement in the middle ages, to early Methodism "classes," to today’s “cell churches,” the best churches have been ones where people gathered in small groups for a more intimate experience of the Christian faith.
Seven Benefits to Being in a Small Group
Call them what you want, small groups in a local church are a win-win for everyone. Just consider these seven benefits of being part of a small group of believers who meet regularly and “do life together.”
Closer Relationships. We can only relate in depth with a small group of people, an obvious reality of human relationships. Doing life together with five to ten people will develop closer bonds between people. The consequence is a deep sense of belonging and community.
Deeper Influence. Leadership can be defined as "influencing people towards God’s purpose." Deeper relationships allow deeper influence, so small groups are the best environment to exercise in-depth leadership.
Non-Threatening Environment. People who are unfamiliar with the Gospel and with Christianity are more open to an invitation to meet a group of friends than to a public meeting with hundreds or thousands (especially if there is food involved).
Best Use of Gifts. Paul teaches us about using our Spiritual gifts for the growth of the Church. Only a limited number of people can use their gifts in a large setting. In a small group, it is a different story. Everyone can use his/her gifts and be used by God to bless others.
Best Opportunity to Serve. We are not followers of Christe just to make us happy and save us from Hell. We have a calling to serve others. This works both at an individual and group level.
Leadership Development. The outcome of using Spiritual gifts and serving others is so people will grow into leadership. Churches with successful small groups have no shortage of leaders because people are constantly being equipped to lead.
Accountability. We all need to be accountable to others in order to grow spiritually and maintain our integrity. When properly led, a healthy small group provides the ideal environment for honest and non-judgmental accountability.
The reality is, small faith groups work! Yes, the largest churches in the world have small groups, but there is more to the impact of “churches within a church” than just megachurches. Just look at the communities that are making the greatest impact in the world around them, and you will find some small group dynamic behind the success.