Small Group Models

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One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is how to choose a small group model (or system).  It’s also one of the most important questions.  You’ll find some helpful hints in my article on how to choose a small group strategy or system.  In this article I want to simply highlight what I think are the most significant elements of each model.

Remember, no model is truly problem-free.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  That said, here are the most common small group models:

  • MetaChurch: First popularized by Carl George’s Prepare Your Church for the Future, the MetaChurch model is a system that finds its roots in the cell church model.  The importance of every leader having an apprentice, the notion that healthy groups grow and birth, and that “everyone needs to be cared for by someone and no one can care for more than 1o” are all keys to the model.  I’ve devoted a full article to the MetaChurch model right here.
  • Sermon-Based groups might be the oldest model.   More than likely, the earliest disciples used a portion of their “house to house” time to talk about what they’d heard in the Temple courts.  When you hear about sermon based groups today though, you’re probably hearing about a system like the one popularized by Larry Osborne and North Coast Church in his book Sticky Church.  If you’re looking for a way to unite your whole congregation in an ongoing discussion about a central topic, this is a pretty good way to do it.  I find it to have a couple significant downsides (emphasis on one topic system-wide has some limitations and it is less appealing to neighbors and friends).  You’ll find a more complete overview right here.
  • Semester Based has been popularized by books like Activate and to some extent Dog Training, Fly Fishing, and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century.  The main idea of Semester Based is that people more readily make a 13 week commitment than an indefinite one.  On the basis of that idea there are usually three “semesters” a year offering a catalog of topics.  Prospective members select from the available topics, spend 13 weeks together, and are free to choose a different group in the next semester.  It should be pointed out that members usually have the chance to continue in the same group for the next semester and often do.  You’ll find a more detailed review right here.
  • Free Market is a model based on the central idea that groups based on interests (dog training, fly fishing, Bible study, etc.) will attract a broader range of people.  After all, everyone has an interest…or at least, that’s the premise.  Free Market is often used in combination with a semester based strategy and interest based groups make up the catalog for the semester.  Fly Fishing, Dog Training and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century has some great ideas about how to implement this model.  I’ve found the two main downsides to be that it’s difficult to generate enough new leaders and it is not conducive to a church-wide campaign approach.  You’ll find a more detailed review of the model right here.
  • Connecting Church is based on Randy Frazee’s book by the same name.  The Connecting Church details a strategy that takes advantage of natural neighborhood affinities to trim down the number of activities and groups a person is part of (small group, Sunday School, bowling, neighborhood social group, etc.), allowing them to make room for life and focus all of their attention on one group.  There are definitely some advantages to the model.  There are also some clear challenges (geography doesn’t guarantee affinity).  You’ll find a more detailed review of the model right here.

Looking for information about another model?  I cover the Cell Church, G-12, North Point and the Church-Wide Campaign Driven approach in part two right here.  Don’t want to miss an update?  You can subscribe to my updates right here.

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  1. Andrew Mason on August 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Great breakdown here Mark! We’re probably a combination of the Metachurch and Semester Based models. Thanks for sharing!

  2. markchowell on August 8, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Thanks Andrew! Glad to hear you found it helpful!