sharing what we’re struggling with, the
journey we are on, both trusting and
challenged by the people in our home
church, that’s when we see transforma-
tion take place.”
His observations jive with the Can-
adian Bible Engagement Study. The
study – making waves with its obser-
vations that the majority of Canadian
Christians do not regularly read the
Bible – discovered that in small groups
relationships are nurtured, and con-
versations about the Bible’s meaning
are encouraged. And people who talk
about the Bible more, read it more.
Rob McDowell is the pastor responsible for small groups at Deep Water
(Wesleyan) Church in Halifax. Small
groups also have a positive impact on
the life of the church itself, he says.
While Sunday morning encourages
mingling, it’s not necessarily an environment that promotes spiritual growth.
“We’re driven by Sunday morning num-
bers, we program for it, talk about our success or failure
around that. The myth of church is that we know a lot
about people, but we don’t really know them.”
Small groups, he feels, can help a church along in
that maturation process. Deep Water’s model of spirit-
ual maturity includes holiness, living intentionally and
missionally outside Sunday mornings, giving generously,
spiritual discipline and living in community with each
other. They believe small groups to be instrumental in
helping people grow those characteristics.
But even small groups have to tread lightly in some
What Small Groups Study
cases and sensitivity is required. McDowell points out
that the Church hasn’t maintained its position in the
city centres, which have grown rapidly in the past two
decades. Consequently, there are increasing numbers of
unchurched people. “When the unchurched come to an
urban church, which is a big step in itself,” McDowell
says, “and they’re faced with going to the home of some-
one they don’t know to talk about something they’re not
sure they believe in with people, that’s intimidating.”
The EFC’s Rick Hiemstra believes there’s an addi-
tional benefit to small groups – the opportunity for God
to speak to us through others. “When someone else’s
point of view can change yours, that is profound be-
cause your willingness to hear through someone else is
radically different from what happens in culture, where
truth is internalized and intrinsic only to me. The idea
that truth could come from outside of myself, either from
the Bible or from another person, is what a good small
group can achieve.”
The Meeting House has a structured format with specific
questions and discussion topics related to the Sunday sermon. Winnipeg’s Church of the Rock, on the other hand,
Clockwise from left: Rick Hiemstra, Aubrey Krahn and nate
vawser. “Increasingly we live alone with our thoughts, consuming info via podcasts or online. Face to face, there is accountability,” says Hiemstra.
group to develop close ties. Anything over 12 can lead to discus-
sions that aren’t as well focused. However, if a leader is extreme-
ly effective, they will have higher numbers and will likely be able
to steer the discussion.
•;Whether;your;small;group;chooses;to;discuss;the;Sunday;ser-mons, or follow a DVD series, books of faith, or particular book
the Bible, make sure to devise a reading plan – what to read and/
or watch in preparation and possibly a list of discussion topics or
questions. this helps each group member know what to expect
to discuss, and also encourages daily Bible reading.
that ensure people feel safe enough to really grapple with the
subject matter, and to know that no question is too dumb to ask.
met – but some churches have found that newcomers, especially those who are unchurched, can feel intimidated going to
the home of someone they don’t know. As a solution, some have
started opening the church for small groups.
“lecturing” or instructing. Most churches offer initial training, es-
pecially in practical leadership topics, as well as ongoing coaching
either through workshops or mentors. FT –Alex Newman