Ninety-six percent of evangelicals surveyed belong to a Christian small group that meets on a regular basis, according to a year-end member survey of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
Many respondents noted how vital small groups are to a healthy spiritual life. “Without that helpful interchange of persons and perspectives, too much solipsism and egocentricity become distortions. Both larger community and small group are needed for spiritual exercise and witness and for personal growth and renewal,” one member said.
A pastor explained how being involved in a small group was both beneficial to him as well as a way to model spiritual health to his congregation. “We encourage attendees to attend small group to help them in their spiritual development, and I feel it is important for me to do as well for my growth, and to model what we tell people is important for them.”
Several described how their groups have grown and changed over the years. “We are answering Jesus’ prayer of John 17,” one noted.
In their comments, many included the length of time they had been involved in a specific small group, citing the closeness of community they found there due to the time invested.
“My husband and I have been in the same small group for 10 years. It is a blessing to pray for one another and encourage one another to live Christ-like lives,” one respondent said.
A ministry leader in California noted the uniqueness of his personal small group experience. “All in the group are retired pastors. Except for one, we have all known each other for over 50 years. We think it was a ‘God thing’ that we all ended up in this city.”
Roughly six percent of NAE members who were involved in a small group described the importance of creating groups where anyone could join and feel welcome. They described outreach to others rather than lifetime community as being the focus of their group. One member described a small group she leads in which many who attend are not Christians.
Twelve percent of NAE members also described playing an active leadership role in at least one of the small groups they were involved in. One leader wrote, “It is the sixth one my wife and I started. Getting ready to birth another in 2016.”
For Further Reading
Steven Lee, “Five Common Small Group Myths and the Truth to Help Transform your Group,” The Gospel Coalition, November 7, 2014, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/five-common-small-group-myths-and-the-truth-to-help-transform-your-group (accessed February 3, 2016).
Randall Neighbour, “Five Essentials for Small Group Health,” Christianity Today, September 4, 2004, http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/spiritualformation/040901.html (accessed February 3, 2016).
“Who is Active in “Group” Expressions of Faith? Barna Study Examines Small Groups, Sunday School, and House Churches,” The Barna Group, June 28, 2010, https://www.barna.org/barna-update/faith-spirituality/400-who-is-active-in-group-expressions-of-faith-barna-study-examines-small-groups-sunday-school-and-house-churches#.Vq90VY-cEdU (accessed February 3, 2016).