In our Countdown 31 series, the next eight posts are about eight major decisions that groups must make regarding their purpose.
Big Choice #1 – What type and duration of group best fits our purpose?
This is the starting point for any group. Even established groups need to revisit the purpose of their group. The issue here is what kind of group do we want to have and how long will our group meet? This choice is between ongoing or short-term groups; and open or closed groups.
Duration: Ongoing or Short-term
An ongoing group is a group that intends to meet regularly (usually weekly) for an extended period of time… like years! Many churches have an ongoing group or two that has been in existence for decades! Not all of the original members of the group may still belong, but the group has continued to meet regularly for an extended period of time.
A short-term group usually meets from four to thirteen weeks (one month to one quarter). These type of groups are excellent for discipleship (D-Groups) or other type groups that have a more intense period of study or a precise purpose that can be accomplished in a short term.
Type: Open or closed group
An open group is intentionally designed so that a guest or newcomer can join the group at any time. An ongoing group has a type of study and social network that allows people to move in and out of it as their schedule permits. Guest can participate or even join the group at any time. For a group to operate in this manner requires Bible studies that can be stand-alone. A guest or group member does not necessarily need to have any knowledge of previous lessons or even what the group is studying on the day they visit the group. In other words, registration or enrollment is always open.
A closed group on the other hand has registration deadline. Typically, after the second week the registration period closes. There are typically two reasons for a group to close.
- The study is more intense than an open-group’s study. The curriculum may require “homework”, Scripture memory, or even some type of learning activities. It will be difficult for someone who joins the group late to catch up to where the group members are in the curriculum. In fact, people joining late may even be detrimental and hold back the learning of the group.
- A group designed for accountability often needs to be a closed group. For an accountability group to work well, members must develop a growing degree of trust through ongoing relationships with other group members. Obviously, having new people coming in and out of the group will be a disruption.
So the first big choice a new group must decide is what type of group they are going to be, and what will the duration of the group be. For existing groups, it is an excellent idea to re-examine their purpose and determine if they are being consistent with their original big choice.
Bob Mayfield is the Sunday School/Small Group specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. You can follow Bob on social media:
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