A GroupLife Glossary for the 21st Century

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Language is important.  Without a common language, the massive project known as the Tower of Babel came to an abrupt halt.

It occurs to me that we in groupland often struggle to understand a model or system, a concept or a strategy because we are hearing and seeing through the filter of our own experiences.  We are hearing and seeing through a set of assumptions that may be off by a smidge or a country mile (two very good examples of terms that mean one thing to you and another to me).  For example, in last Thursday’s post, I used the term Sunday school class in a way that confused and frustrated proponents of the Sunday school model.

Here are a few words that need definition:

Small group: It really isn’t purely a function of size.  A small group can be as small as three people.  The ideal size might be 10 to 12 people.  With good leadership, small groups can sometimes continue to grow beyond 14 to 16 but when they do they often practice sub-grouping for discussion and prayer.  Although there may be some teaching, most of the meeting is spent in discussion and prayer.  Seating is informal and generally in a circle.  Where the group meets (a living room, an office, a classroom at church, at Starbucks) is irrelevant.  See also, The End in Mind for My Ideal Small Group,

Bible study: Although this term is sometimes used synonymously with small group, I use Bible study to describe a group form that is almost exclusively a teaching venue.  There may be opportunity to ask the Bible study teacher a question, but there is rarely a discussion.  Seating is often in rows, but in smaller Bible studies seating might be in a circle.

Sunday school class: This term is used to describe more than one group form and they are significantly different.  Although Sunday school classes were originally smaller groups with a teacher and sat in a circle, today the term can also apply to a form that is essentially a smaller version of the weekend service with a master teacher, corporate prayer, singing together, etc.  See also, What’s the Difference Between a Small Group and a Sunday School Class?

Adult Bible Fellowship: This group form is almost always a classroom experience of 25 or more.  Seating is usually in rows.  A typical experience would include a master teacher, corporate prayer and often singing together.  See also, True Community or Smaller Version of the Weekend Service?

Life-change: The gradual process of becoming like Jesus.  We may be new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), we may not be what we used to be and not yet what we will be (Philippians 3:12-14), but we ought to be moving in the direction of  fully mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28-29).  See also, Essential Ingredients for Life-Change and Essential Ingredients for a Meaningful Small Group.

Other terms that need definition: missional community, life-on-life, discipleship, etc.

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

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