Big Questions

What is a small group?

Posted April 04, 2024

by Michaela Gordoni

Several people arrange their hands and feet together to create a circle. Photo by Henning W for Pixabay.

What is a small group?

Churches and ministries all around the world need methods to help the body of Christ grow, and to make loving one another a part of each others’ daily lives as God intends. Small groups help make this happen.

Today, when at least three to twelve Christians gather together for a relational purpose, churches and ministries refer to this as a small group, according to Rick Howerton.

By actively being a part of a small group, believers follow Jesus’ command in John 13:34–35: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Small groups came about in the 1960s, according to Harley Atkinson and Joshua Rose. However, the practice can be traced back to Biblical times. Noah, Moses, Daniel and Jesus got together with others to grow spiritually. Even the Trinity — the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — is an example of a small group, according to Small Groups.

How is a small group different from a Bible study?

A small group is different from a Bible study because it is based on interactions that are more personal. As the name implies, small groups often limit their size to a smaller number of people than Bible studies, according to Discipleship.

The primary thing that sets small groups apart from Bible studies is the relationship aspect. A Bible study focuses on the study of Scripture and may be more formal, like in a teacher/student setting. Small groups orient around discussion and invite conversation from all members, according to Discipleship.

Many hands make a heart. Photo by Pexels for Pixabay.

Why is it important to join a small group?

Believers need each other, and small groups are an effective way of cultivating community, according to Dylan Dodson.

“Christ commands believers to live in community for our good,” Dodson wrote.

When it comes to the growth of Christians, small groups cannot be replaced, as they are essential to the health of the body of Christ, according to Jeremy Linneman.

Along with relating and opening up to others on a deeper level, small groups provide a way for believers to hold each other accountable. They provide an environment for believers to encourage, love, build up and confess to each other freely.

A group gathers around a speaker. Photo by Matheus Bertelli

The Bible says in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Attending traditional church services and Bible studies provides spiritual and Biblical knowledge, which believers need to grow closer to God, as well as functions like baptisms and communions, according to Tony Cooke Ministries. Small groups exemplify iron sharpening and the building of character.

In the last line of John 13:35, Jesus says, “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Small groups are often where that love happens, and when believers are not loving each other, they are not following this command.

In Romans 5:5, Paul says the love of Christ is spread throughout believers’ hearts. The capacity of a believer to love is definite, whether it be for their neighbor or fellow Christ follower.

While one may grow spiritually on a personal level by attending a small group, they will also be following God’s command to love, too. And that’s a great thing.

So, be encouraged. Love others. Join a small group, and “sharpen” fellow believers.

Michaela Gordoni is an avid reader and part-time globe trotter. With a bachelor's degree in International Relations and experience in the non-profit world, she has a passion for people and loves to look at topics from a global perspective.