Transformative Fellowship: A Pastor's Journey into Small Group Ministry

A small group of people study the Bible.
A small group of people study the Bible. (photo:
By Su Ran February 2nd, 2024

Churches have been running small group ministries for a very long time. During the pandemic, when traditional church events faced obstacles, many churches attempted to transition ministry teams into small groups.

A church in City S has embraced a small group model for nearly five years. In 2018, the church underwent a reform, initiating a comprehensive implementation of the small group ministry. Pastor Qiu (pseudonym) explained that before adopting small groups, the church's emphasis was mainly on fellowship. During this period, they encountered practical challenges such as limited pastoral personnel and repetitive tasks. Eventually, the pastors became extremely busy, unable to cater to all believers. Some fellowship groups even saw a decline in attendance.

Faced with these challenges, Qiu departed from the traditional fellowship group model and initiated the implementation of refined cell groups. The congregation was divided into five groups: youth, adults, middle-aged, strong adults, and seniors, encompassing nearly all believers. This was done in line with the principle of "caring first, then nurturing."

Comparatively, Pastor Qiu dedicated more years to studying and mastering the small group model than to small groups themselves. According to him, leading small groups requires leaders to have a clear understanding of the vision and a firm determination. Additionally, mature concepts are crucial. Blindly adopting others' models during the initial stages will lead to failure. He underscored the significance of small groups' mission and vision, which should be deeply ingrained in believers' lives. Moreover, he mentioned the necessity for tailored training in areas such as marriage and family, work, and parenting to edify believers based on each small group's characteristics.

He emphasized that cell groups should be active. At least three events of different sizes are held each year for the entire church, pastoral areas, and small groups. These activities foster emotional connections among believers, hence their commitment to the church, and resist heretical teachings.

Some pastors worry that the church will split if small groups grow. Pastor Qiu shared a past incident where prayer groups were established in different regions. Some groups, with an increase in the number of believers, detach themselves from the church due to resisting splitting. Learning from this experience, they now stipulate that each small group cannot exceed 15 members, and the group should split if it expands. If a group leader decides to leave, they must hand over the leadership. 

Although Pastor Qiu's church has been implementing the small group ministry for five years, a few believers still dissociate themselves from the church. Qiu mentioned that pastoral staff are organizing visits for them with comfort and care and advising them to join a suitable group.

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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