Skip to main content

Are Small Groups Really Just Cliques?

I'm a firm believer in the potential of small groups. I believe spiritual formation happens best when we are willing to share life with and submit to a small group of people who will lovingly build our character and help us be attentive to the work of the Spirit in our lives. But there are dangers in small groups. I recently came across a blog post which discussed the fine line between healthy small groups and unhealthy "cliques." Below are some excerpted statements from that post. You can read the entire post at The Spiritual Formation Blog.

  • A while back, I blogged that healthy small groups are friends. I’m not sure why, but this has recently become the most popular post on my blog. Debra commented,
  • Small groups often divide the church into cliques. The group forms, bonds, and no new people stand a chance of joining them. The more groups there are, the more segregated the church. New people see this right away, feel like an outsider, which they are, and don’t go back.
  • A healthy community is never a closed clique. It is open, inviting, welcoming, outward-focused, and missional. Healthy community fulfills all of the Great Commandment by loving God, one another, and our neighbors as ourselves.
  • Jesus led a small group and... said about himself, “I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” (Matthew 9:13 , The Message)
  • I love the way Richard Peace put this in his classic book, Small Group Evangelism:
  • In a successful [healthy] small group, love, acceptance, and fellowship flow in unusual measure. This is the ideal situation in which to hear about the kingdom of God. In this context, the “facts of the gospel” come through not as cold propositions but as living truths visible in the lives of others. In such an atmosphere, a person is irresistibly drawn to Christ by his gracious presence.*
  • Debra described unhealthy small groups as what we might call “holy huddles.” The problem is not in the huddle itself, however. Every successful team needs a safe place to huddle, to put our arms around one another, catch a short breather, and encourage one another before running the next play to accomplish the team’s mission.

What do you think? How can a group avoid becoming inwardly focused? How important is it for a group to be missionally-minded? Should every group be open to newcomers all the time? Where is the balance?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Discussion Questions for Easter

Have several people ask the question, “What’s the most important thing you’ve ever done?”
Ask other people, “What do you hope to accomplish in the next several years of your life?”
Tell your class that today you’ll be talking about “life mission” or the one most important thing you do that drives everything else. Tell them that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the defining moment in history, so it should be the defining moment in our lives.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. How does the resurrection impact some of the crucial beliefs of Christianity? 
How would Christianity be different if there was no resurrection? How would you be different without the resurrection?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. What are some specific ways that the resurrection gives us hope?
If you had been a friend of Jesus when he was on earth, how would the resurrection have impacted your life? 
How do you think his followers then were effected by the resurrection?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:58. What do you t…

20 Questions to Build Group Connections

Here is a great exercise for a new group. The instructions are pretty simple. Go around the group giving each person the opportunity to choose one question and answer it honestly. Anyone can follow-up with an opinion or clarifying question (no critiquing each other's answers, though). Once a question has been answered, no one else may answer that question.

If your group is larger, you may want to alter the rule and allow each question to be answered 2 or 3 times. Ideally, each person should end up answering 3-5 questions.

As the leader, pay attention to the conversation. Let the discussion run its course as this is how people in the group build their relationships with one another. You can use these questions, modify them or create your own.