Healthy Cells, Healthy Body
Healthy cells lead to a healthy and effective body. Anything that distracts from the health of the cells will have a negative effect on the body as a whole.
The Body of Christ needs the same focus in maintaining the health of the small groups (cells). Encouraging and equipping the small groups to be healthy, birth life, and sustain that life must be a priority. Some ministries can support that life as long as they have small group values as their DNA.
A good example of this is the Alpha course. It can be run and hosted by individual small groups or organized centrally as an empowering ministry of the church where small groups can be instrumental in bringing pre-believers to Jesus through eating, sharing, discussing, and growing together. New members can then be integrated into the small group during and after the Alpha course.
However, programs and ministries can also become a distraction and, therefore, disempowering. When members find themselves in a position of having to choose between small group relationships or attending another ministry that causes them to detach from small group life, they can end up with feeling they have “divided loyalties.” Taking the example of the Alpha course again, should it be organized centrally with people sitting randomly at any table and leaders devoting themselves to forming relationships with people they may not see after the course? Even ministering to someone from a different small group can cause organizational and relational ineffectiveness.
The first Alpha course example empowered and supported the small groups, making a relational bridge to the open door of the small group for new believers to walk through, while the second made it more programmatic. I realize that the examples given are very simplistic and not all decisions can be made based on these models. However, they are offered as pictures of principles that can make or hinder small group life.
Making decisions about which programs and ministries to release is vital to the life of the small groups. When programs distract, burn people out, or cause them to choose between the program and small group life, they need to be reevaluated.
Healthy cells lead to a healthy church.