In my opinion, every church that desires to grow needs to focus upon “small groups.” This term has been around for quite some time in the denominational world but has not seen much emphasis among Apostolics.
Small groups can be defined as “a unified group of 3-15 like-minded Christians that meet regularly for fellowship and spiritual growth.” This is the dynamic that was seen in early chapters of Acts. Here you find early Christians (1) gathering for instruction from the Apostles, (2) spending time in group fellowship (Greek: koinonia), (3) eating together (breaking bread), (4) praying with and for one another, and (5) meeting one another’s needs by the sharing of resources.
Practical application in today’s local church includes ladies groups, youth groups, men’s groups, singles, seniors, cell ministry groups, kids clubs, and more. Leaders of these small groups should have a well-written job description that keeps their focus upon three things: helping their group to grow spiritually, assimilating new converts that join their group, and organizing their group for evangelism by inviting unsaved outsiders to join their group activities or planning group evangelism activities that reach out to the community. An added benefit of small groups is a training ground for developing future leaders of the church.
Small groups that want to grow need to mirror the same key elements that cause churches to grow: organization, evangelization and assimilation. Pastors should work with the small group leaders and train them in the skills needed to see their groups grow both spiritually and numerically.
Small groups often reach a plateaued state after five years in which they cease to grow. The most successful method for overcoming this plateaued condition is to divide the group and appoint a new leader over the new group. This often allows both the mother and daughter group to once again start growing at a steady rate. New groups tend to grow faster than existing groups, so a church should continually be starting new small groups each year.
The one area that is often lacking among Apostolic churches is the use of small-group Bible studies. It is common among growing churches to have dozens of small groups meeting every week for Bible study and fellowship. This kind of small-group ministry can often bring about a renewal of growth, both numerically and spiritually, for a stagnant church.
An excellent resource for starting small group Bible studies is the Small Group USB – a USB stick packed with resources to help the local church launch an effective small-group ministry. Produced by Parkway Church in Oak Creek, WI (Anthony Tamel, pastor) the material will help you launch small groups to achieve a renewed focus in growth and revival. To order call: (414) 571-2680 or visit their web site: www.theoakcreekchurch.com.