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Study Explores the Importance of Small Groups

The Associated Baptist Press reported on a new Baylor University study that evaluates the impact of small group ministry on the overall health and success of a church. Not surprisingly, the study found small group ministry to be valuable for connecting members to the church and to one another, but researchers warned that having a small group ministry in itself does not guarantee church success. Kevin Dougherty, sociology professor and lead researcher on the project, said in order to have lasting value to a church, small groups must meet with regularity, promote a sense of trust and open discussion, and provide support during the difficult moments in members’ lives. In fact, says Dougherty, small groups increase the commitment level of their members, and “highly committed members” contribute to the overall strength and veracity of a church, regardless of the church’s size. “Any type of small group will benefit a church, whether it’s a Sunday School, a service group, or a basketball league, because of the belonging and commitment they foster,” added Dougherty. “But small Bible study and prayer groups are better at promoting discipleship and spiritual growth.” The study also affirmed that members of small groups are more likely to tithe, attend worship services regularly, and volunteer in service ministries. The study results were published in the March issue of Sociology of Religion.