Bible School
There's a growing trend towards small groups in my local conference--and I praise God for it. I've seen small groups work effectively in reaching out to unbelievers in even the most secular environments. And I have no doubt it is biblical. It's clear the New Testament church from Pentecost to Paul, built their evangelism on the foundation of using homes to preach Christ (Acts 5:42And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ., Acts 20:20And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,).

It's great to hear people saying "YES" to the need for small groups these days. But the key to being successful in small groups may have more to do with saying "NO" to other things.

Joel Comisky, an internationally known evangelical cell group expert, in a post at ChurchLeaders writes: "if cell ministry is simply one program in the midst of endless church activity, the church is bound to fail." From my own personal experience, I've come to the conclusion this is true.

I am blessed to be the pastor of a medium-sized church in the Chicago area. We run the full spectrum of ministries you would expect in a church our size. As a result I have members who are out at one event or another, a committee, prayer meeting, a church school program, or something else, as much as 3 or 4 times a week. Or more! Asking them to give an additional night each week to a neighborhood small group, is not only difficult, it is probably wrong. After all, they have families!

Quoting Comisky again, "For many churches transitioning into the cell lifestyle, it’s wise to place a moratorium on new programs for a certain time. The lead pastor, along with the ministerial team, needs to help the church concentrate in order to establish the cell philosophy as a way of life in the church." Or to quote another author, "success in any line demands a definite aim."

Despite the busyness in our church--we've still managed to grow. Attendance has nearly doubled in 5 years. And as a result we've been able to recently plant a new church in a nearby town--with a good strong core group of about 40 people. In this new church, we've been intentional about keeping the focus on our small groups. Even single-minded. And as a result we have about 90% of our core team actively participating in small groups. Other than our worship service--all ministries of the church plant are being run through small groups of one sort or another.

Quoting Comisky again: "Learning to say NO is one of the most important principles in the cell church. There are one million good things that will come knocking—even pounding—on your church door. These are well-intentioned programs by well-intentioned people, but they will surely drown the cell ministry ... If the church doesn’t learn to say NO, the cell church system will flounder."

If you want to see small groups thrive in your church, consider the importance of not just saying yes to small groups, but also of the need to say no to countless other things.


What has your experience been with small groups? Do they work in churches with lot's of busy programs? How important do you think it is to be focused? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

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Posted by Chrissie Decker on 04/01/17
Yes to a care group intensive.

No to more programs. I am very interested in the Simple Church movement, that Milton Adams is using. Even the worship service is done in small group.

I don't have an 'in person' small group at the moment, but I do have it by telephone and others by Internet. Our conference has a prayer line meeting at 6:00 am every morning. We have a call line and meet every morning to pray for our conference leadership, pastors, teachers, various individuals and situations. At 7:07 give or take, we have 'afterglow' where personal requests are prayed for, church outreach, family situations, whatever is on anyone's heart. I am the leader of Friday's prayer time, and the daily leader in afterglow.

I am amazed at the changes in my own heart over the time I've been doing this, first as an attendee, now as a line leader.

In December, we had some interest, and I started leading in 40 Days of Prayer and Devotion to Prepare for the Second Coming, by Pastor Dennis Smith, that begins on the same prayer line, but at 5:00 am. So now, I'm up at 4:00, to have my own personal devotions and study to prepare to lead that.

Seeing the blessing that was, I offered it as a class on Pastor Ken Norton's Flocktoc group. He is now in Guam, and It Is Written has taken over caring for the site, but of the groups I've offered to lead there, I have 4 active small groups by Internet now. One is 5 days a week (we started at 7 also, but it interfered with Sabbath and Sunday worship-meetings-family commitments) The others are 1 time weekly.

Adding my commitments here has been a struggle for time management. I welcome assistance in that, as I need to also care for my home, family, living temple.... I did not expect my retirement time to be so busy! But it is a good busy, a wonderful busy.

So bear with me as I figure this all out, I'm loving this ride, the bumps and all. :)

Blessings to you! Thanks!!!!
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/10/16 - Coach
Let's see if we can get Johnny to agree to teach it! :)
Posted by Dan Pratt on 11/10/16
Great insight and comments, Johnny. Greetings, and good to hear from you! Yes, yes, Dan, we need an intensive on CARE Groups.
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/08/16 - Coach
Now Johnny is the one I should have quoted for this article. He's the real expert! :) One of these days we need to do an intensive just on Care Groups. What do you think?
Posted by Johnny Wong on 11/07/16
Hi Dan, what you wrote is spot on!
Learning to say no. No, care group is not a program but a lifestyle.
Learning to say no. No, not all programs should run, it needs to be purposeful.
Learning to say no. No, we will not launch/multiply groups unless the core leaders are equipped.
Learning to say no now seems difficult but it will pay dividend in the long run!
Posted by Dan Vis on 11/05/16 - Coach
Great points Dan. I agree with you on both. Though of course, both are related. In our church plant we are encouraging each small group to develop their own ministries to reach people. So we solve both problems at once.

If anyone has ideas for bringing seekers into small groups that have worked for them, please share below.
Posted by Dan Pratt on 11/05/16
In my experience, cell group ministries, while often difficult to successfully initiate and maintain, are the single most effective path toward church growth with retention. It seems to me that the two most vital facets to the life and longevity of a cell group are having seekers in the group and (as you Dan brought out above) having the “ministries of the church…being run through small groups of one sort or another.”

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