While searching the web recently I happened on to a site entitled, “small group models.” The author said, “there is no right model for small groups but there is a model that fits your context best.” There followed a list of 10 models such as, open small groups, closed small groups, cell groups, free-market groups, neighborhood groups, purpose driven groups, sermon based groups, organic small groups, house churches, and host groups.
You can find out more about these types at the following website, (http://www.smallgroups.com/build/models/).
As I looked over this list I was able to come up with several more models not mentioned, for example, life groups, prayer groups, mission groups, Bible study groups, and TLC groups, just to mention a few. So, what is the best model for your church? In this article I will seek to make the case that the best model is, “TLC Groups for Busy Disciples”, a model outlined in the book TLC Groups for Busy Disciples, How to Multiply Groups from House to House and Grow Your Church! There are several reasons for my belief in TLC Groups, beside the fact that I wrote the book.
1). TLC Groups is a Biblical model. Not to say that other models are not Biblical, but to emphasize that TLC Groups are patterned after the New Testament experience described in the book of Acts, “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.” (Acts 2:46 NRSV). The key word here is “home.” History shows that the Christian movement had no church buildings for at least the first 100 years of its existence. Christians met in their homes. The earliest church was a small group house church movement. This was a natural outgrowth of the culture and context of the time.
2). TLC Groups for Busy Disciples, is a model designed for the 21st century culture and context. We live in busy times. TLC groups are designed for short and effective weekly gatherings limited to 59 minutes, a fun way of saying one hour. They are home-based, hosted by trained TLC hosts and led by trained TLC pastors (all laity). The schedule is flexible and streamlined. There is no food and no lesson preparation. The groups meet for four distinct purposes, fellowship, prayer, a short faith-based lesson discussion, and mission. (Exception, once every six weeks refreshments are served).
3). TLC groups are a pure cell model. The Cell Group model views small groups as the basic unit of a church congregation, much like an organic cell is the basic unit of the human body. Thus, small groups are not treated as “one program among many,” but are the necessary core model for the whole congregation. The key items make up the DNA of a cell group. If operating properly, each cell group will grow and multiply on its own, transferring this DNA from group to group. A well-known church growth consultant once posed the following test question for defining a healthy church, “what is your church known for on the community grapevine?” A church with effective TLC Groups will answer that question, “we are known as a cell church!”
4). TLC Groups multiply. One of the most stated complaints voiced by pastors and local church leaders is that, “we cannot get our small groups to multiply.” TLC Groups multiply by design. This is an organic (cell) principle, an integral part of the DNA. Just as the cells of the human body multiply and thus grow, so the small cell group ministry of TLC grows the body of the church. TLC Groups begin with six to eight people, grow to about twenty and then multiply into two groups. Imagine that a church averaging one hundred in worship attendance were to begin TLC Groups. Starting with one group in year one, growing the group to 20 participants, then multiplying to two groups in year two, four groups in year three, eight groups in year four, and sixteen groups in year five. Given that each group has twenty members at the end of year five there would be a total of 320 participants. Fifty nine percent of American churches have 100 or less in weekly worship attendance. Imagine would could happen in the next five years if this group of churches started TLC Groups!
5). TLC Groups repeat the basics of deepening faith. All denominations seek to deepen participants’ faith through a repetitious emphasis on seven areas of spiritual life: FELLOWSHIP, PRAYER, WORSHIP ATTENDANCE, GIVING, SERVING, WITNESS, and MISSION. Churches attempt to deepen individual commitment in these areas through classes, sermons, Bible study, mission trips, etc. but the fact remains that spiritual life still weakens and participation continues to decline. Statistics reveal the following in regard to these six areas:
1). Fellowship. The majority of people are too busy to spend quality time with their own families let alone church members or strangers.
2). Prayer. While most people believe in prayer, very few are willing or able to pray out loud in front of others even in a small group.
3). Worship Attendance. While many people say they plan to attend worship when they get around to it, the average worship attendance, even of active church members, remains once per month.
4). Giving. Many church members talk about the principle of tithing but in reality the average giving in American churches remains at about 2.4% of income.
5). Serving. While many believe Christian service is vital very few have actually identified and put into practice their “spiritual gifts” as outlined in the Bible.
6). Witness. While most Christians believe in the concept of witnessing, statistics show that only 1% of Christians have ever lead another person to Christ.
7). Mission. While “mission trips” have become somewhat popular few people have a personal mission statement that defines their calling in Christ and their purpose for living.
TLC Groups are process groups that seek to develop the practice of discipleship in these seven areas. This is done in an informal, non-threatening setting where people can voluntarily discuss and experiment with these issues without fear of rejection or embarrassment. The first Methodists, led by John Wesley in the 1700’s, were noted for their weekly small group gatherings called class meetings led by class leaders. A description of those first meetings is given by Dr. David Lowes Watson, AIt was therefore agreed that the members of each class should meet together once a week, not only to collect the weekly contributions, but also to give advice, reproof, or encouragement as needed. A dynamic of Christian fellowship quickly developed, as members began to bear one another=s burdens, and to care for each other.”
21st Century Renewal Ministries Newsletter Volume2 Issue1.
Author: Dale R. Turner, January 7,2018