I'm writing a research proposal for the program I'm in asking what factors or influences affect the success or failure of small group ministry. Specifically, my congregation's.
As I get deeper and deeper into the question I find myself asking different questions. Instead of “How do/can we make small group ministry succeed?” I find myself asking, “What does 'success' look like in a Christian context?” or “If our job is to create – with God's help – followers (disciples) of Jesus then is small group ministry an (the?) effective way to do so? Is it just one method among many?”
“If small group ministry is to help fill the communal void that people are said to have, is it working? Is this the right tool? What is the nature of community, anyway? Can we create an environment where community will happen? Or does it have to occur organically?”
For me, the question behind all this is: Is the church, as presently organized, the most effective means of accomplishing our mission to make disciples of Jesus?
I have a suspicion that it's not. And if that's true, what about the church needs to change? And after that is identified, how do we make those changes? What are we willing to sacrifice in order to accomplish the goals that God set before us? What should NOT be changed?
It's no secret that Christianity in North America is in decline. The question then, for me, is: What is God saying to the North American Church through such decline? Is God humbling a too-proud Christendom? Is God purging the deadwood, leaving a smaller but stronger, more pure church? Is God challenging us to be more innovative, to NOT rest on our laurels, to see history as a starting point, not an end?
I don't know.
But these are the questions that provide the backdrop to my research proposal.
What do YOU think?