Rethinking Where Groups Meet

In my last post, I discussed “Rethinking Our Small Group Model.” A couple of small group architects, Alan Danielson and Ben Reed posted some intriguing comments, which inspired another blog post.

Basically, Alan said that if Jesus’ group met in America today, they’d meet in a variety of places outside church buildings and homes. Ben responded that homes would be a primary place although not the only place Jesus’ group would meet. Ben thought that meeting in more public places might feel awkward and look “showy.”

Seems to me place was simply irrelevant for Jesus and his group. They met everywhere: synagogues, streets, homes, beside a well, fields, gardens, cemeteries, mountainsides, lakesides, seashores, boats…everywhere they went. The gospels give the impression that they were constantly on the move. They made disciples and carried out their ministry “as they went.”

The early church did much the same. Their mission (and ours) was to “make disciples as you go …” And the gospel message spread as they did so. Yes, the home was a focal meeting place for the early church. Max Lucado wrote about this in his book, Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference. In his “UpWords” devotional titled “Open Your Door, Open Your Heart,” Lucado says the home was used as a valuable tool for sharing the gospel and making disciples, but it was not the only tool or only place they met.

For many small groups today, “location is everything.” For Jesus, relationships were everything, wherever they happened to be. The location of their ministry was determined by the leading of the Father and the needs of the people. The focus for them and the Christ-followers in the early church was not on meetings, but on ministry. The environment Jesus used for discipleship was not a living room or a classroom, but life itself. And life itself was focused on serving and sharing the Good News.

My big question is: How do we do that today—in the culture in which we find ourselves? Is the current small group paradigm of meeting weekly for 90 minutes in a circle somewhere the best model for sharing the Good News, making disciples? I’m not sure it is, and if it isn’t, then what is?

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Michael C. Mack founded in 1995 and served as a small-groups minister for more than 20 years in several churches. He is a writer, editor, trainer, and consultant in the areas of small groups, leadership, and discipleship. He is the author of more than 25 books and small group studies, including his latest, World's Greatest Small Group (pub. January, 2017). He regularly blogs on his ministry website at His family is a small group that includes his wife Heidi, their four children, and their dog, Lainey. Mike is also an avid mountain biker.