Every ministry model has its weaknesses. Small groups are no different. They have their weaknesses, and I won’t pretend to hide behind them, but there are some benefits to small groups that cannot be ignored:
1 - Healthy Community…if your goal is to foster community in a church. We have already established that small groups provide discipleship opportunities for intentional leaders, but there are lots of other benefits that churches experience from a healthy small group community.
2 - Help Big Feel Small: It is no secret that there is one major fear people have in going to a large church: No one knows them! Small groups change that experience. Every Sunday my wife and I sit with a couple from our small group, and I see over 100 others that do the same each week (and that's just the people I know).
3 - Pastoral Care: Group ministry is the front line of pastoral care in the church. Group leaders and members are the first responders to crisis in a large congregation. There are many emergencies that occur in our church that I am the last to hear about, because our small groups have jumped in and handled the situation before word of it even made it to me.
4 - Evangelism: We have to stop thinking of small groups as "Bible Studies." We have groups at CCV that facilitate relationships that result in evangelism. New people have been attending our church as a direct result of the following affinity groups: softball, kids play group, volleyball, dog walking, tennis, scrap booking, and others.
5 – High-Priority Communication: Do you need to get the word out fast about something important in the church? Leverage the small group ministry network. On numerous occasions we have done this with an important change in the church, or even with communication for a capital campaign to build a new facility on our campus.
6 - Volunteer Network: I can't count how many times we have utilized our small group ministry to rally the troops to get a job done. We would not have been able to staff our kids program when we experimented with our Saturday night service if it weren't for entire small groups volunteering to serve on Saturday nights together.
I guess I look at this whole situation kind of differently. Small groups will continue to exist in all of our communities—with or without churches. I just hope that churches pay more attention to group ministry, because without this vital ministry, churches are the ones at risk, not groups.