As we have seen in previous posts, defining the purpose of your group ministry and your individual group is critical to a healthy group environment. One of the primary goals of any group (Sunday School or Small Group) is to get people into a group.
Life change can better take place if a person is in a group rather than not in a group. Which is better? Sunday School or Small Groups? How about they are both a great way to engage people in a process of life change and a process of helping the person learn and experience what it means to love God and love their neighbor! God can use either and both. Francis and Howerton present this idea very well in their book. It is better to offer both types of groups so that people can have a choice based on their schedule, lifestyle and past experiences (preference).
There is generally a generational break between what younger people desire and older people desire. The builder generation was brought up in Sunday School classes and they have enjoyed Bible Study, fellowship, care groups and yes even reaching people for Christ through their groups. Younger people gravitate toward a group that meets in an informal environment, a home, coffee shop etc. Why? That is for another day.
I have watched as church leaders move their church from a Sunday School model to a Small Group model. Often this is done based on perceptions and the belief that this is “the direction of the future.” Many who attend church have a personal preference in these 2 models because of their past experiences. To move in a direction where you only offer one model you could be eliminating some people from participating who desire to be in a group, but now their preferred style is not available. It is usually the Sunday School model that is eliminated. Why? That too is for another day.
Often churches have an existing Sunday School ministry and the people who attend benefit from it. They have grown up in that model and they actually like it. To remove that ministry from the life of the church then creates a void in the life of those who appreciate it. Removing Sunday School potentially alienates a group of people in the life of the church who are probably not going to participate in the “new focus of home groups.”
Some churches struggle with space issues. They simply have too many people for the space provided in the Sunday School model. Starting home groups is a great way to continue to get people into groups when you are out of space but you can’t do that unless you are offering both models.
Sunday School has strengths, Home Groups have strengths and they both have weaknesses as well (again another day). As leaders in the church we need to take advantage of any means we have to get people into a group where they can grow, learn, relate, be challenged, minister together and be on mission with Christ and His church.
Use what space you have to build a Sunday School ministry and then find the pioneers in your church who have a desire to take the Gospel to their homes, schools and work place. Start groups in church and out, but start groups and get people to participate in them in both places. “Go Hybrid.”