Teaching Sunday school is always a learning experience for me. Whether I am the designated teacher or one of the participants, I find it beneficial to hear another’s understanding of the text. Each of us brings our own life experience and needs to the text. I am becoming more committed to the idea that the study of Scripture is incomplete unless it takes place in community.
Sunday school classes are called various things now, but whatever they are called, they are small groups of people who learn and grow together. Small groups have been important to the life of the church for years, finding expression in various forms--the “holy clubs” of John Wesley, the modern Sunday school movement, home Bible studies, and recovery support groups among other examples. Even in the age of the megachurch, small groups are an important strategy for growth and discipleship.
Scott Thumma and Warren Bird’s study for Leadership Network of 25,000 megachurch attenders showed that “large churches are very intentional about helping people find their identity in some kind of group or team.” Some sixty percent of those surveyed indicated that they are involved in one or more groups and this is a growing percentage. Over almost a decade, the number of mega churches saying that small groups were central to their approach to Christian nurture and spiritual formation grew from fifty percent to eighty-six percent.
Although small groups vary in their leadership style, purpose, content, commitment and process, they are places where individuals can practice self-discovery while learning from the experiences of others. Small groups may have been part of the church for generations, but they still continue to be on the “growing edge” for Christian formation and discipleship.