Small Groups….To Each His (Her) Own!
Scott Rubin, the junior high pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, is one of my closest friends. And because we happen to minister in similar contexts (other than sunny skies, warm beaches, and palm trees…), there is no shortage of good-natured comparing, teasing, and “edification” between us concerning the ministries we lead.
And while there are tons of similarities, one glaring difference in our ministry paradigms is our approach to small groups. At Saddleback, our small groups meet on a separate night of the week, in host homes….for about 90 minutes or so. At Willow Creek, because they don’t value deep relationships or bible study lasting more than 7 minutes, their small groups are attached to their weekly large group gathering, and spread out all over the interior of the church for about 30 minutes.
Do I really believe they employ this strategy because they don’t value deep relationships or Bible study? Am I honestly convinced our way is better? While I don’t like to admit this to Scott….the answer to both questions is a resounding “NO!” The way they organize small groups works best for them, and the way we do it works best for us…at least for right now.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about small groups: What works best is what works best! Profound, I know. Because each youth ministry has their own unique resources, time constraints, church-wide culture, it would make sense that there would be a variety of small group expressions, and even in churches that follow similar strategies, there would be plenty of variation and nuance.
Here’s something else I’ve learned: ANY effort at small groups is better than no effort. The larger your ministry gets the more important it becomes to look for opportunities to break the group down to smaller sized chunks from time to time. Not ready to go “all in” with a detailed small group strategy? No worries. Instead of small groups, sart by dividing the group in half or quarters for a short discussion time after the lesson in “smaller groups”. My point; any time you break into smaller groups there is a better chance for relationships to be built, conversations to happen and active learning to take place…and that’s a really good thing!
Every time I visit Willow Creek, I make a point to try to sit in on a junior high small group. Partly so I can tease Scott afterwards about how shallow it was, but mostly because I absolutely love seeing small groups in action….in ANY manifestation!