Not Just a Holy Huddle

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What does a healthy small group look like in your small group system?  One that meets regularly?  Maybe a small group that invites new people?  Or how about one that practices the "one-anothers"…on one another?  What does a small group need to be like to be an example of a healthy group?

This is a fair question and an important one, don’t you think?  After all, we’re not just hoping for people who get together regularly for cookies and milk…right?  So what does a group need to be like to be a healthy small group?  Or put another way, what is a "win" for each of our small groups?  You’ve probably asked yourself this question.  Maybe more than once!  Let’s take a crack at the beginnings of an answer.

Some of us would say that a healthy small group is one that balances the purposes.  Now, your first reaction might be, "We’re not purpose-driven."  That’s ok, it still applies.  Just follow along.  What we’re saying is that a healthy small group does more than connect for fellowship and study for discipleship.  Balancing the purposes means that they would also serve together somehow (ministry), worship together, and share their life mission (evangelism).

So far so good?  More than learning about the Bible while developing good connections with a few others.  There is a missional component to what we’re doing.

How do we know if it’s happening?  Is it enough to proclaim the need for that?  Not very often.  In fact, expecting a group to drift into a more intentional form is contrary to the way we’re wired.  The truth is that left to ourselves most of us will become less intentional over time.  Just the outworking of the third law of thermodynamics.  Things wind down and entropy unless we’re intentionally working at them.

In some ways "balancing the purposes" might have a lot in common with the way a tire is balanced.  A little bit of weight is added to the part of the tire that needs it in order to counter the part that is naturally weak.  What’s that look like in a group?  If you find yourself doing fellowship and discipleship with ease and nothing else (like most of us) you may need to give your group some intentional exercise in the purposes that are a little more difficult.  For example, if your group needs some baby steps in the area of evangelism or ministry an opportunity to serve can be provided.

I love what has developed and implemented in their small group system.  Not enough to meet regularly.  Every group is challenged to take on a micro-mission, serving in some way in a local mission project.  What’s a micro-mission?  Could be as simple as a church-planned block party.  Could be an opportunity to collect or provide "lifepacks" (school supplies) for school children who don’t have what they need.  See the intentionality?  Rather than leave it to chance they’re giving their groups a way to participate that is easy, obvious, and strategic (in a novel, think steps not programs kind of way).

Sound workable so far?  Here is an important key. is measuring two things: (1) the total number of small groups and (2) the number of groups participating in a micro-mission.  What’s a win for a group?  Participate in a micro-mission.

Could you do a similar thing?  Could you come up with a way to help your groups balance the purposes?


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  1. brad brisco on March 25, 2008 at 6:39 am

    I like the idea of “micro-missions.” You may have already seen this, but I just read a good article from Leadership Network on helping make small groups more externally focused. You can find it here:

  2. Mark Howell on March 25, 2008 at 7:10 am

    Thanks for the link Brad! The externally focused concept is very good. Also, the guys provided a link to a page that has some good info about their concept: