When you look at small groups in an analytical way you see that there are actually several components to them. My friend from Saddleback Church, Steve Gladen says in his new book Small Groups With Purpose that there are five necessary components to a successful small group. These basic components are to be done intentionally and in balance. They are; Fellowship, Discipleship, Service, Evangelism and Worship. These five actually are the definition of the Church as a whole so it makes sense that they would show up in a small group too. While he advocates balance, he isn’t saying each must be given equal time when the group gets together. But for health and growth, the group must not be lopsided in it’s approach to touching the community for Christ or caring for one another. As with all aspects of life, balance is vital to the health of anything living… and the Church is indeed a living organism.
For small groups, doing just one thing all the time is called being a “specialty group.” These are built around a single interest and serve a specific purpose such as an exercise group. They may have their place in your small groups vision but will not adequately move the group toward the deeper growth God has in mind for them. I think of these groups as magnets for the unchurched. But we must not let them be the end of the outreached opportunity. We are called to make disciples of Christ. We aren’t the YMCA. Our work goes deeper than the physical or any other single factor. We are about the whole man.
If your small groups aren’t thriving in all areas as they do life together, it maybe time to take a look at the reasons they exist. Busyness in the church doesn’t necessarily mean we are busy about the Father’s business. And it is the same for small groups. It is really about the health of each group. Activity is, well… just activity. The wisdom of Proverbs 29:18 is clear that people can and will follow a vision but without one they simply cast off restraint. We can do that best by casting a godly vision for our leaders and helping them hit the mark for balance in every group that we have. Our job isn’t to provide a fertile environment for activity but to make fully devoted followers of Christ. It is who we are and what we are called to as His Body and we should be about that calling with laser focus.