I think that all of us would say that the main purpose for small groups in a church is to make disciples. If we are not making disciples, then we might as well call them social clubs. The question then becomes — what is a disciple? For the sake of this discussion, I am going to use the definition that a disciple is simply someone who is taking their next steps to be more like Christ.
The really tough part is how to evaluate your groups for effectiveness in discipleship making. We can make it complicated and have the wrong assumptions about spiritual growth. Here are four wrong assumptions that you can make about discipleship in groups:
Everyone grows at the same pace. The worst mistake that we can make in churches is trying to microwave the growth process in our people. If we don’t get results quickly, then we feel like we have failed as leaders. Lasting growth takes time and cannot be rushed.
Everyone grows in the same way. We are all wired differently as human beings, so we have to expect that we will take different paths toward the center. A great resource for this is The Me I Want To Be by John Ortberg. We have to create different environments to allow different people to grow in different ways.
Only the small group leader can disciple. As long as you are one step ahead, you can take someone else along on the journey. We have to change the mindset that only mature disciples are equipped to lead others. God will equip the willing.
There is a finish line to discipleship. As long as we are in these earthly bodies, we will be striving to be more like Jesus. We all want a certificate on the wall that says we have accomplished the goal, but as Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.