Small Groups Change the World

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Jesus had it sussed, with just twelve mates and a bit of divine intervention he split history and changed the planet for good.

Anthroplogist Margaret Mead (who has a nephew living in Gisborne) famously said: “Never doubt the power of a small group of committed people to change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

This week I was in the public library reading an article from the progressive politics magazine ‘Yes!’.

The author suggested that growing communities usually lose social cohesion. As they increase in numbers there is a tension between growing a group and a maintaining sense of personal belonging for members.

She suggested there were important lessons to be learnt from places like Saddleback “megachurch” in California where over 20,000 people attend Sunday worship while members still experience a strong, deep sense of belonging. Pastor Rick Warren has created “a church out of a network of lots of little church cells—exclusive, tightly knit groups of six or seven who meet in one another’s homes during the week to worship and pray.”

In other words, the secret is small groups.

So one of the leading progressive publications in American politics is taking inspiration from conservative megachurches!

Historically, this small group has been called the “affinity group”, “small group ministry” or “consciousness raising groups.” Call it what you want, but the basic concept is the same: you’re human, so you need support and connection. Few people will stick with a church or a movement that fails to provide these things.

We learnt this in Youth For Christ and Te Ora Hou years ago – the big group nights are great but the real mentoring and relationship happens between a youth worker and four or five kids.

It is exciting to see small groups of people within and outside of our local churches finding affinity with others and working to realise the potential of this place we all love.

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Christian Comment, The Gisborne Herald, May 2012

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