Significance of Small Groups in Urban Churches

Significance of Small Groups in Urban Churches

Significance of Small Groups in Urban Churches

Jobin Sam Varghese

Emerging urban churches are no longer geo-fenced, which makes the role of small groups of greater importance. In the earlier days, church operations were limited to a specific geography and the members attending the service would be located within 3-7 km. However, urban churches have people attending services across the city. 

The inflow of people migrating to cities has been spiking each year. Statistics also show that the movement of people within the city is an emerging pattern, as people are shifting towards new workplaces, apartments, etc. This makes the need for urban churches more real in the cities, as it could reach out the gospel to the growing cosmopolitan crowd. The fluidity in location is also applicable to the church location, as most churches lease/rent out the facilities to conduct service due to space and economic constraints.

 The concept of a church is not just about attending a Sunday Service and living a life in solitude. A biblical church should posture importance on community belongingness and fellowship - leading people towards being effective witnesses and disciples of Christ. With the fluidities in locations, church members wouldn’t prefer shifting their church every other time they shift their tent. Cell groups, therefore, become an effective way for churches to drive fellowship and discipleship- even when their address is changed- and help them to be connected to the larger church. 

The following are some of the reasons why small groups are important for urban churches –

  1. Small Groups Drive Intentional Discipleship

 One of the primary responsibilities of a church is to disciple and lead each of the members to spiritual maturity. Sunday Service becomes too crowded for church leadership/ pastors to connect with members on an individual level. With a smaller crowd, the cell group facilitator and church leaders are able to identify the spiritual vision and goal for each of its members and are able to nurture/ walk with them to attain the calls God has over their life.

 This does not happen because of a good curriculum that the small group follows, but because of the active work of the Holy Spirit and the personal fellowships within these groups. These contents make meaning and relatability to each members. 

2. The true Essence of Fellowship is Built 

 Fellowship isn’t about sharing a coffee/ snack after a Sunday service nor is it the small chats we have at the parking grounds. As for many of the mega-churches, the concept of small groups are ways to keep the crowd locked/ stuck to the church. For some, small groups are a “hang-out” place for chit-chats and feasting! Fellowship, however, is about connecting with fellow believers and encouraging each other in our walk with the Lord.

 With the growth of the urban church experience, there is a great danger – the church leaders could start seeing people as “numbers” and miss out on engaging in the new members’ life. 

People in cities are living in ‘urban anonymity’ and while it gives them privacy, it also fuels loneliness. Church leaders, therefore, need to be intentional to engage with each of its members so that a sense of belongingness is achieved. 

 Weekly small groups help to know each other in a deeper way and provide a comfortable space to be vulnerable- this helps the small group members to be more intentional to stand up for their needs, comfort each other, and carry each other’s burdens. It also helps to specifically intercede for each other's needs daily. This will truly create a sense of belongingness, accountability and carve out the true picture of a spiritual family. Maya Angelou states “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel”. These small groups become a place where people would feel heard, loved, and cared for!

3.   Cross-over between different focal groups

 Small groups provide a great platform for different groups of people (young couples, singles, elderly, etc.) to know each other's lives, testimonies, and challenges. In this way, they could build each other to enter their next phase of life. An example would be how a single adult could prepare himself/ herself for their marriage, by learning from the families who are attending the small group. This could help the person to break away from the fanciness created by movies. Another example would be the students, who can learn about the different challenges in a working professional’s life. 

 Small groups are not just peer groups, as they contain people from all age groups and phases of life coming together, forming a true spiritual family. Each of the small group members is able to see the diverse ways God is working in the different focus groups. Through all of their life stories, they are knowing more about God's faithfulness.

4.              Small Group Builds Leaders

 Small groups are also an effective way for churches to provide a platform to build, equip and mentor new spiritual leaders. The different responsibilities- being the cell group facilitator, leading the Bible study, worship, or even hosting the fellowship- are the different ministry 

opportunities people could engage in, which would equip them to eventually take up larger church responsibilities. This would reduce the workload of the pastor, as there are other leaders in the church who are more accessible and are able to give the members personal attention.

5.              Small Groups Creates Outreach Opportunities

The first-century church met at different believers’ homes, and these homes were the places where new folks gathered, heard the gospel, and had their lives transformed. It could be possible that our neighbors, colleagues, or classmates could be apprehensive about coming directly to a church. Our homes create a more friendly and comfortable atmosphere for them to come, know, and interact with the members. Small groups provide an opportunity for us to be hospitable to people- especially to the ones who are new to the cities, are carried away by their busyness, and also lack a community that they can connect with and rely on. Our homes can thus be a place of comfort and rest. When we invite them to our home, we are in a way, inviting them to our personal life/ space! This would in turn make them feel connected and belonged.

Small groups play an effective role in the spiritual growth of a church and it shouldn’t be positioned as an optional/ time-permitting event. Rather, it should be taken as an important spiritual discipline that each member should be involved in. These groups aren’t just for the new believers, but it’s something that the seniors/ elders/ church leaders need to prioritize to be a part of. When we make it a priority to attend our weekly small groups, we show our commitment and love to the church members, which in turn enhances and deepens our fellowship with them. Small groups also help the church in aligning its members towards the larger vision the church would be pursing and thereby help in the overall spiritual growth of the church.

Closing with an encouragement- Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and more as you see the Day approaching!”

Small groups can play an active role in the spiritual growth and expansion of our urban churches. Let’s prayerfully prioritize these fellowships!