Local Preacher's Course On Small Group
The idea of implementing of a common Small Group (SG) ministry across TRAC churches has been an ongoing one for a while. After Bishop Hwa Yung’s talk on “watching over one another” at the Pastors’ School in April 2012, a small group was tasked to write a paper to be presented to the Executive Board. The basic role was to streamline the SG ministry in TRAC and to introduce accountability.
2. Basis for All Members to be in SGs and Accountability
- Small groups are a part of our Methodist heritage. The genius of John Wesley’s pastoral method lies in the use of classes and bands to develop a holy people and ‘to spread scriptural holiness through the land.’ Every Methodist in his days attended a class meeting. In the General Rules, it is stated that “each society is divided into smaller companies, called classes…” and the goal was for members “to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation.” To achieve the stated goal, the class leaders enquire the class members (1) “how his soul prospers” and (2) “advise, reprove, comfort, or exhort, as occasion may require.” (See Para. 71, The General Rules, Book of Discipline, 2008, pp. 71 ff.)
- Here we have a historical basis for a total membership structured for pastoral oversight and accountability. However, we will need to adapt this practice to our current situation and ministry needs.
- In most of our churches today, ministries have grown and multiplied. The network of SGs can assist the church in her tasks to care for her members, nurture them, and encourage them to serve. While all these tasks can be facilitated via the SGs, we need to increasingly focus our SG goal on accountability by “watching over one another.”
3. Goals of Small Group Ministry
- Nurture: to provide nurture and meet fellowship needs of our members.
- Nurture is provided especially during the SG meetings when worship, study, exhortations, prayer, etc. take place.
- It also includes members feeling of acceptance and sense of belonging as the SG ministers to them as a whole.
- Accountability: to watch over one another to ensure that members live out their discipleship throughout the week. (It is a way of caring for the spiritual life of the members.)
- Accountability is practiced during a segment of the SG time in a structured and safe level. It can be applied using one of the following models: (1) the General Rules requiring members to “do no harm, do good, and attend ordinances,” (2) baptismal vows requiring members to renounce sin and evil and membership vows requiring members to participate through their prayers, presence, gifts and service, (3) life in Christ in all spheres (personal, family, office/school, church and nation) of our lives, or (4) Disciple’s Cross of Master Life series using the six disciplines.
- Accountability is also provided in the Covenant Groups for those who want to have a deeper level of accountability.
- Care: to respond to the needs of members.
- Care is given by sponsoring new members, visiting the absentee, the home bound and the hospitalized, and responding to members in crisis situations such as funerals, etc.
- Care includes any other areas of care that the Pastor assigns to the SGs.
- Service: to serve the needs of the church and reach out to the community.
- Support the vision of the church through participation in the needs and ministries of the church.
- Reach out to the community, evangelize the family and friends of SG members, and do good works.
4. Operations of Small Group Ministry
- Every member of the local church is assigned to a SG. Para. 142.1+ 2 of the Book of Discipline, 2008, give a basis for doing so. SGs can be organized by different categories such as Church organisations, geography, age groups, affinity, etc. The criterion of organizing the SGs is left to the local church discretion. Members may express their preferences.
- The Pastor oversees the SG ministry with the help of the SG Director (full time staff) or the SG Coordinator. SG Leaders are recommended by the Pastor (with the assistance of the SG Director or the SG Coordinator) to the LCEC who will then appoint them. When the number of SGs has increased, the LCEC can also appoint Supervisors to help oversee the SGs. Such SG Leaders and Supervisors must have undergone the required basic training. The Pastor will meet with the SG Director, the SG Coordinator, and the SG Leaders (and Supervisors) at least once every two months to receive reports and to give input.
- The program of the weekly SG meeting is: Adoration, Study, Accountability and Prayer (ASAP). The time duration of the SG meeting is within 1½ to 2 hours in the recommended time:
In the event of a need to discuss care and service, it is left to the discretion of the SG to readjust the program. The SGs normally meet once a week and not less than twice a month. The recommended study can be (i) sermon discussion, (ii) Bible Study material, and (iii) video teaching material.
- The SG is an open group that others may join in at any time. The SG will have an attendance of up to about 15 after which it should work towards multiplication of the group. The SG will multiply using one of the following methods: (i) equal distribution, (ii) a small nucleus of 3-5 members move out, and (iii) reconfiguring with another SG.
5. Relationships between Small Groups, Covenant Groups and Bible Studies
- Members who want deeper accountability may join Covenant Groups on top of their SGs. The Covenant Group is a close group that may be formed within the same SG or across a few SGs of 3-5 persons. The Covenant Groups will meet once or at most twice a month. They focus sharing on the state of their soul and on areas of accountability they want to work on.
- Most churches provide Bible studies for their members. Some churches have a selected syllabus of Bible studies for their members to go through. Bible studies are different from SGs in terms of their goals and structure. A Bible study group is usually a close group with limited time duration (12 weeks or 1 year) and focuses on the content of the study. A SG is an open group with a long duration and focuses on the four goals stated above.
Bible studies provided by the church (selected syllabus) may be implemented in one of the following ways when SG ministry is adopted by TRAC:
- Bible studies conducted outside of the SGs.
- A Bible study group is conducted outside the SG when (1) members have the time and desire it, (2) the Bible study takes 2 to 2½ hours a session and the SG cannot cater for it, or (3) various members from different SGs desire to be together in the same Bible study. For a member who has limited time and wants to attend a Bible study, he “takes temporary leave” from but still belongs to his SG.
- Bible studies conducted within the SGs.
- A Bible study (usually selected by the SG with the Pastor’s approval) or sermon discussion is the norm for SG meetings but limited to 60 minutes. However, a Bible study provided by the church (selected syllabus) may be implemented within the SG when the entire active members of the SG want to do the Bible study together. (In the case when the Bible study takes up two hours, the SG ceases to conduct their meeting using ASAP but will care for all their members including the inactive ones. The other alternative is for the SG to do a split session of one lesson in two weeks. In this case, the SG meeting retains the format of ASAP.)
- The SG is the place where members belong to and mutually care for one another. We encourage all members of the church to participate actively through regular attendance of the SG meetings. While members may opt to be in the Bible studies temporarily, it should be just that—temporary. After the study, the members should participate again in their SGs.
6. Implementation of SG Ministry during Quadrennium: 2013-2016
- Pastors will be briefed.
- The SG ministry training will be conducted for churches whose pastors and LCECs are ready and interested to implement the SG ministry.
- Churches will assign all members to their SGs and implement all the recommendations of SG ministry after the SG ministry training.