Every church wants a healthy small group system but as the old adage reminds us, be careful what you wish for.
Small groups, typically five to 15 people meeting regularly in a home, help members connect relationally and grow in discipleship. To help the system flourish, many churches have hired small group directors, highlighted groups in sermons, and promoted groups in their ministry strategy.
Chuck Lawless has written about 6 problems that can come from small groups:
1. Unclear purpose.
2. Bad leading and/or teaching.
3. Little or no Scripture.
4. Unfriendly members.
5. Not expecting guests.
6. Gossip sessions.
Sam Alberry, an editor for The Gospel Coalition and a pastor based in the United Kingdom, adds one more; a danger that small group members will make their faction the locus of group life replacing the corporate worship of Sunday morning. He outlines his concerns in this YouTube video that’s titled, “What Could Be Dangerous about My Small Group?”
He warns small groups have the potential to become a church within a church and its members apathetic to the larger church and its mission.
Alberry says small groups that separate in that way miss out on the whole range of gifts from the body not present in a smaller group, they don’t take part in church-wide discipline, vision and leadership, and become less diverse by missing out on the full range of people, ages and backgrounds found in the church at large.
When that happens, Alberry laments, members of the small group only receive a partial blessing that was intended to come from church experience.
Small group ministry is powerful and necessary. Some growth and areas of discipleship can only happen in smaller settings, but Alberry warns us not to let small groups supersede the Sunday gathering no matter the advantages.