An Analysis of the Sermon Based Small Group Strategy

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I am regularly asked about the wisdom or effectiveness of a sermon-based strategy. Underlying the question many times is the sense that providing a study to be used will keep groups from straying from the well trodden pathway.  And I have to admit that at some level there is  wisdom behind what they are asking.  See also, Sermon Based Small Groups.

There is wisdom behind what they are asking…but there is also a set of assumptions that need to be unearthed and evaluated.  Only after evaluating will it make sense to embrace, discard or modify.

Common assumptions that accompany a sermon-based group strategy:

  • A sermon-based group curriculum allows members to ask questions and discuss the weekend message (hard to argue with that)
  • A sermon-based strategy encourages one conversation among the congregation’s adult participants (again, hard to argue with the benefit, at least periodically, of this idea)
  • A sermon-based curriculum can be produced in-house, ensuring theological orthodoxy while keeping the cost down (perhaps the cost of curriculum can be minimized, but ensuring theological orthodoxy has more to do with the leader)
  • Sermon-based curriculum makes it possible to intentionally target particular aspects of spiritual growth

Observations about sermon-based strategies:

  • The invitation to join our group as we dig in deeper to our pastor’s message is often less appealing to friends, neighbors, co-workers and family than an intentionally selected cross-cultural topic.
  • Small group studies based on expository sermons, especially lengthy verse-by-verse through a book of the Bible, are a often a tougher invite for unconnected people.
  • Variety is present in virtually every other arena (restaurants, television programming, neighborhoods, etc.) and the entire customer base is targeted and served by anticipating individual tastes.

My Takeaways:

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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  1. Adam Parker on June 26, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Our church has typically had sermon based discussion to be used as an option for groups. I have used it with my personal group several times with varied success (really depends on the series on how effective it may be). I think it’s a great tool but I wouldn’t want to be constrained to the one option myself, just an opinion.

  2. markchowell on June 26, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Thanks for jumping in here, Adam! I think the series makes a difference. I also think the skill of the team developing the study guide is an essential element and very, very important.

  3. Bob Chambers on March 13, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Developing group leaders – actually, recruiting them in the first place, too – is much easier with sermon-based groups. How do you keep theologically sound group discussions of you don’t limit the groups’ topics to the sermon material or dvd studies?

  4. markchowell on March 14, 2014 at 7:03 am

    Thanks for jumping in here, Bob! I’m not sure what you’re asking. It is very helpful to provide a recommended study list that features study ideas. Some churches have taken the idea one step further to ask that if a group chooses to do a study not on the list that the title be submitted for consideration.