What is an effective small group? This is the question we’re exploring in this series of posts. 

Now, as with any group, inside or outside the church, there is a pooling of something, when you get people together. Lots of churches have floundered on the rocky shoals of believing that if you just throw some groups together, that will solve everything. But as in everything else in life, what matters is not the verb, but the object of the verb (see my previous post, Verbs and Objects). Groups  can be created for, say, bomb-making and bomb-throwing. That would be bad. But if we grouped up for the courageous and self-sacrificial fulfillment of the Great Commandment, then our small groups will most likely be useful and effective. 

The right goal must be established; the right city needs to be on your group’s train ticket. I would argue it’s the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:35-40). 

If you’re a leader of a group, one of your jobs is to keep your own eye on that ball (the Great Commandment), and then keep your group’s eye on that ball. One way of doing this is to talk about it consistently. Yes, do this. 

Then we need to lay down straight, strong tracks for the train to run down. We need to set up our group’s processes so that the group will naturally flow towards our preferred destination, over time. 

I would offer the following three groups of three as a structure to guide you. We will get more specific on these, but I find a simple “three groups of three” model easy to remember, and easy to engage in, while still exercising the unique creativity and gifts of your particular group:

Word, Prayer and Fellowship: If a group focuses on each of these, defining them properly, the way the Bible does, it will flourish, and grow to become a useful, effective group. 

Ordinary Life, Lived Together, with an Intentional Focus on the Gospel: This triad is original to the book “Total Church”. It means that group members seek to live ordinary moments of life together, not just the well-decorated ones, while intentionally seeking to live out the gospel in those moments. Think two guys who work next to each other. They eat lunch (Ordinary Life), together (Lived Together), and they read the Bible and have a spiritually significant conversation (Intentional Focus on the Gospel). 

Enjoyment, Work, and Thought: These are just as biblical as the first two triads, and are non-negotiable, especially in today’s world.