Small Groups: Positively Dangerous?

For session three yesterday of the Trellis and Vine workshop (the second half of which is today), the pastors split into three groups to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their current ministry.  I sat in on one group and listened to the discussion. As one pastor would stand, introduce himself, and report from the frontlines, all of the pastors responded with resonating nods. Although these pastors are speaking as workers in different contexts, their shared vocation creates a warm camaraderie.

As the three groups of pastors came back together, Col picked up the teaching by introducing some trellises for disciple making. On the foundation of Sunday gatherings and the public ministry of the Word, healthy small groups are effective trellises. The vision of these small groups is multiplication over time. The multiplication may be slow, but Col insists that it is essential. He added, “We don’t want our small groups to become ghettos.” In other words, we don’t want our small groups to become static and disconnected from the life and vitality of the church.

People are often coming to embrace the gospel in these small group settings. Conversions that happen in small groups are referred to as people entering the church through “the backdoor”—contrasted to “the front door” of the corporate gathering on Sunday morning. Small groups can be a helpful trellis for stimulating organic vine growth.

Col added that what makes the trellis of small groups helpful is the vine work of training leaders. He advised the pastors to not even have small groups unless they are willing to really train leaders. He explained that small groups without pastor-trained leaders are dangerous. They can create schisms and doctrine can go askew. The gospel could be lost. He concluded, “Just like with an elder, small group leaders should be selected and trained properly.”


Notes from Other Sessions