THE GROWTH OF SMALL groups as a part of churches and faith-based ministries around the world has been extraordinary and nothing short of phenomenal. The small-group movement as we know it today began to make inroads into the church in the seventies, with Lawrence Richards including this model of making disciples in his highly influential book A Theology of Christian Education (1975). The movement gained momentum throughout the next decades to the point that many churches replaced the Sunday school model of disciple making for adults and youth with the small-group format. Today small groups have continued to proliferate not only in North America, but also throughout the world, in churches of all sizes. The strong interest in small groups that pervades churches and parishes gives indication that they cannot be considered faddish in nature, as some might have suggested earlier in the movement. Biblical, historical, and current research sources offer evidence that small groups are one of the most effective structures for communicating the gospel, fostering spiritual formation in the lives of individuals, and generating renewal in the church. In an age when “big is beautiful,” there is a corresponding notion that indicates small is indispensible in structuring for community, outreach, and Christian formation.
Harley T. Atkinson, The Power of Small Groups in Christian Formation (Eugene, Oregon: Resource Publications, 2018).