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Supporting Member: We have visited several churches that have small groups. Each has a form to express interest, and they ask you to provide your age group. Every church I’ve ever been to wants small groups according to age. Am I the only one who is confused by this? What is the effectiveness of this method? I’m not sure if they do this because it is an easy way to group people or because it is the best way. Maybe I am not seeing this correctly, and someone could enlighten me. My husband and I attended a small group where members were of various ages and stages of life. There were grandparents, empty nesters, high schoolers’ parents, and small children’s parents.
In this small group, we experienced tremendous growth, were spiritually challenged, and had accountability. I enjoyed learning from older, wiser Christians who could say, “We went through that too, and this is how we made it.” If people are all the same age, they can share and relate to their issues, but few would have answers or wisdom on navigating those challenges or offering hope. (For the record, I get keeping singles and married folks separate, but other than that, I’m at a loss.) So my question remains, why do churches want to divide people into small groups according to their age?
Bible does not stipulate how to operate a small group. Each church determines how they want to run small groups, which varies from church to church. Our role as church members is to obey and support our leaders while engaging the contexts they provide to serve each other (Hebrews 13:17).
You must determine the purpose of the group. In this episode, I’m speaking of sanctification groups, so when I use the term small group, I mean sanctification group: folks who come together to intentionally spur one another on to love and good works.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
My “preference” are mixed groups of all ages. Schools and Sunday schools are two of the few contexts that are uni-generational. Virtually every other structure is multi-generational, e.g., family, work, hobbies, shopping, etc.
People will naturally gravitate to their preferred kind, i.e., young kids will seek to play with kids their age. You do not have to make “kind-to-kind connections” happen because we do it naturally, but if you want something more than peer-to-peer interaction, you’ll have to intentionally create it.
If your goal is to have a dynamic small group experience, you must do more than have a mixed group. There has to be an intentional plan to build into the small group members’ lives. The following graphics explain the deliberate strategy my wife and I used when we led small groups.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).