Finding the Right Fit: Navigating Small Group Models in Your Church

by | Dec 1, 2023 | Church Health, Discipleship | 2 comments

In my journey, both as a pastor and a follower of Christ, I’ve seen firsthand how vital small groups are in encouraging our spiritual growth and building authentic community. But here’s the thing: there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to small group models. Just like our unique walks with God, every church has its distinct rhythm and needs.


Open Small Groups: Room for One More


Imagine a circle of chairs, and there’s always one empty – that’s the essence of Open Small Groups. These groups are a beautiful picture of the welcoming heart of Jesus. They remain open to newcomers, embodying the spirit of “whoever will, may come”. It’s like having a continual open invitation to anyone seeking to explore faith, find community, or simply ask tough questions. As these groups grow, they often multiply, creating new spaces for even more people to join.


Closed Small Groups: Deep Dives into Faith


Now, let’s switch gears to Closed Small Groups. These are your tight-knit squads, often centered around specific topics or interests like deep Bible studies or prayer. They offer a safe space for vulnerability and depth, allowing members to forge strong, committed relationships. Think of them as a greenhouse – a controlled environment where deep-rooted growth can happen.


Cell Groups: The Church in Microcosm


Cell Groups, or the meta-church model, echo the early church in Acts. They’re small enough for intimate fellowship yet potent enough to encompass all aspects of church life. These groups usually meet in homes, emphasizing relational discipleship, and often replicate to extend their reach. It’s church, just smaller and more personal.


Free-Market Groups: Pursuing Passions Together


For those who find joy in shared interests, Free-Market Groups are a fantastic avenue. Whether it’s hiking, cooking, or jamming out in a music group, these gatherings revolve around common passions. They’re less about structure and more about connecting and growing in faith through what you love doing.


Sermon-Based Groups: Sunday’s Echoes


Then, we have Sermon-Based Groups. These groups dig into the meat of Sunday’s message, offering a space to chew on, wrestle with, and apply the sermon’s teachings. They’re a bridge between hearing the Word and living it out, fostering both spiritual growth and community.


Neighborhood Groups: Localized Community


Neighborhood Groups bring the church to your doorstep. Focused on geographical proximity, these groups are about building community right where you are. They remind us that church isn’t just a place we go to, but a community we live in every day.


Purpose-Driven Groups: Fivefold Growth


Lastly, Purpose-Driven Groups, inspired by Rick Warren’s model, seek holistic growth. These groups intentionally nurture five areas: fellowship, discipleship, ministry, evangelism, and worship. They’re about growing a well-rounded, Christ-centered community.


Choosing What Fits Your Context


So, how do you decide which model fits your church? It’s like picking the right tool for the job. Consider the unique fabric of your congregation – the needs, the culture, the vision. Remember, it’s not about the model; it’s about the mission.

In the end, whatever model you choose, the goal remains the same: to create spaces where people can encounter Jesus, forge authentic relationships, and grow in their faith. Because at the heart of it all, it’s about people coming together to experience the life-transforming power of Christ. This is discipleship.

Stay passionate, stay focused, and let’s keep building the Kingdom, one small group at a time.

For more insights and guidance on selecting the best small group model for your ministry, check out


Read more blog posts by Jeff Hoglen, D.Min.

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