About three years ago, I submitted a proposal to the Great Commission Council (missions committee) of First Baptist, Murfreesboro, to undertake a new church start in a growing area on the west side of town. Today the bank account was closed, the website went dark, the insurance was cancelled, and a letter of appreciation was sent to those who were supportive of this effort by their participation and/or prayers.
I could spend a lot of time in analysis of why Trinity Baptist Church did not happen (and I have written a final evaluation of the effort). Today I celebrate one of the good things that came out of that effort--the home Bible study fellowship groups that were formed.
Three groups were functioning at one time or another. Each were hosted in homes and drew a respectable number of people. As you would expect, those who attended were like those who hosted. Older adults participated in a group hosted by a retired couple; young adults came to the group hosted by a young adult couple.
Real ministry took place in those groups. People prayed for and encouraged one another. Individual members were ministered to in various ways. In a real way, they were "church" to some people, if only for a short time.
If I were on a church staff, I would take a hard look at the potential for outreach and ministry through small Bible study groups, either in homes or in facilities away from the church campus. Some church leaders are afraid of such groups. The primary reason expressed is the difficulty of maintaining "quality" in the groups, but the operational word may really be "control." I think those folks ought to take a look at what is going on in the Sunday school classes within the walls of the church. The variety of teaching approaches is remarkable! Once a person is elected to the role of teacher, we place our trust in them and pray for the best!
Good things happen in small groups. We would do well to think of ways to encourage the development of such groups for community, ministry, and growth.