We visited one of our favorite restaurants last night—one that is usually filled with people. About a third of the tables and chairs had been removed because of Covid-19. For this reason, we thought we might have a hard time finding a seat. Here is what we found:
We had the whole restaurant to ourselves. What does this mean for church world?
Well, in our church, attendance is down by about a third. We have been back at “normal” church for about a month. It is clear that many, many people are nervous about Covid-19 and don’t want to be in large groups. What does this mean for church world?
Well, I have an unproven, untested idea I’d like to throw out there. I’d be curious your thoughts.
Super-small groups (Groups of about Six)
During the entire Covid-19 season there have been about six people I have never stopped seeing. They are my inner circle. My oikos. My super-small group. Everyone has one.
The Greek word oikos is usually translated household. It means roughly, “my people.” It ought to be pretty safe to do a group with these people because you see them anyway. Also, if you start with your oikos, you avoid a lot of the initial awkwardness that often accompanies small groups. We move pretty quickly into authentic community because we already know each other. All we need is a structure to help facilitate that.
At Saddleback church, they recently added 3000 additional small groups utilizing a plan they dub, “Grab two friends.” If you have two friends you can start a small group. Brilliant.
Why super-small groups?
The purpose of super small groups is the same as the purpose of the church as a whole: to be God’s instrument in transforming lives so that we can be God’s instrument in changing the world. We want to cooperate with God in answering the prayer He gave us to pray: Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done. On earth as in Heaven. We want to work together to make this world a little more like Heaven, starting with our own lives; starting from the inside out.
By keeping the groups super-small, and by starting with our oikos, we minimize both the nervousness about Covid-19 and the actual risk of transmission.
One more great thing about super-small. There is an inverse relationship between the size of the group and the amount of life-change. The larger the group, the less the life-change. The smaller the group the more the life-change. In a really small group, application can get specific and personal. In super-small group, relationships can go deep.
What is a super-small group to do?
A super-small group should do six things that contribute to life-transformation. The idea is to get one person to be the champion of each of these activities (six people total). This is not a typical small group where one or two people do everything and everyone else sits and soaks. This is all-hands-on-deck. We want each person to have a job that helps the group to be truly life-transforming. (The group might rotate jobs from time to time.) The six activities, and six jobs are:
Four of these things and done in group-time; the last two are talked about in group but accomplished out of group. Let’s look at what each of these might look like.
The fellowship champion might plan a meal or snacks. They might prepare a couple of questions that move the conversation off the weather and sports to more interesting—and appropriately self-disclosing—topics. They might also plan a fellowship once a month or so. The group that plays together stays together.
After a time of fellowship, the group moves to a time of worship. If the worship leader happened to be a musician, they could lead using a guitar or keyboard. If not, they might pick out a couple of worship videos on YouTube. They might read a worshipful Psalm. They might lead in a worship-only prayer time. (My experience is that groups will find this challenging at first. When we start praying, we tend to fall into the mode of asking for things.) We do well to have one prayer time dedicated exclusively to thanksgiving and praise.
As with worship, you may have a gifted teacher in the room and if so, all the better. If not, the teaching champion might pick out a good teaching video on YouTube. If your church subscribes to Right Now Media, you will find thousands of great video teaching available. Sermon-based groups are really popular these days. You might subscribe to Good Questions Have Groups Talking. www.mybiblestudylessons.com If you can read 20 questions, you can lead a small group. 20 questions are probably more than you need. Pick and choose. Adapt and adjust.
Every group needs a prayer champion to lead prayer time. Be careful not to spend too much time on prayer requests and spend more time on actual prayer. My favorite way to pray as a group is with conversational prayer. (Google it.) The prayer leader might write down prayer requests and pass them along to anyone who might not be able to attend group on any given night.
This is one of two things that are talked about in group and practiced outside of group. The evangelism champion might read a book on evangelism and bring a summary of one chapter each week. They might ask for names of people who need God’s love that the group can pray for. They might lead a time of sharing any witnessing opportunities they group may have had. They might lead in a brainstorming time to think of people to invite to parties, service activities, or the group itself. My slogan is this: You can double a group every two years or less by inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. If you can get outsiders to the party, you are far more likely to get them to the group… and to Christ! People who are opposed the gospel are not opposed to ice cream. Most groups—and most Christians—are weak on evangelism. By taking a few minutes each week to emphasize evangelism we can all improve.
Service is the ultimate apologetic of the church. People might be opposed to our theology, but they will never oppose our service. It is what we are called to do. Let your light so shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your God. The service leader might plan a service project once a month or so. They might initiate a group text to share pictures of ways we find to serve. (Could be as simple as picking up some trash on a walk.) Google “servant evangelism” for more ideas. Again, talk about service in group; do service outside of group.
Every time I have had a really good idea, I discover that God gave this same idea to someone else about the same time. If that is true of you, I’d love to connect and hear your story. Or, if you would like to brainstorm ideas to fine-tune this idea, feel free to reach out. [email protected]