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Producing Healthy Church Small Groups

Producing Healthy Church Small Groups February 27, 2020Leave a comment
church small groups

Church small groups with purpose are key in a thriving and healthy church. Small groups, if done well, contain all the elements that build a pastoral culture in the church, with biblical ‘one anothering’ taking place.

We can forget that the early church formed in Acts was very different from what many of us experience Sunday by Sunday. Meetings in homes were the norm, with occasional larger synagogue meetings. But as Christianity became increasingly persecuted by both Jewish and Roman authorities, house church meetings would have been the dominant form of gathering. Even if churches had large numbers, small groups meeting in members private accommodation served the purpose of providing fellowship, safety and anonymity.

Because the early believers didn’t have collected scriptures – the New Testament hadn’t been written yet, and synagogues would have scrolls of the Old Testament – their meetings wouldn’t have been sermon-centric. So what did they do? What can we learn? Some principles revealed in Acts 2 show what the early church did during their meetings:

Small Groups In The Early Church

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

Acts 2:42-45 (ESV)

We can see a number of things that made up these early meetings:

  1. The apostles’ teaching
  2. Fellowship
  3. Breaking of bread
  4. Prayers
  5. Signs and wonders
  6. Interdependent living

Apostles’ Teaching

The apostles were those who had walked with Jesus. They would have seen close up what He did and heard what He said. No doubt, they would have shared accounts of how He taught and trained them. Jesus’ method of discipleship seemed interactive and practical, rather than just theoretical or cerebral. Dialogue, questioning and discussion would have paid a big part in the apostles ensuring the life and lessons of Jesus carried on in the lives of the new converts.


Fellowship is a strange word in English, but the Greek word here is ‘koinonia’ and conveys a sense of sharing and connection, communion – as in, ‘common union’, where there is both commonality and unity. In effect, whatever differences they had – racial, political, gender, social, financial – were secondary to the common connection they had in Christ. Small groups would have had all kinds of people, who would have learned how to get along!

Breaking of Bread

Breaking of bread is a covenant meal – as Passover is to a Jew, so is breaking of bread to the Christian. This covenant meal would have reminded the people that they were connected to Christ, and also to one another. Sharing food is only done with friends, and is a demonstration of welcome and acceptance.


By prayer, this would have included the sharing of Psalms from memory, and therefore what we would consider worship. Worship songs are oftentimes prayers – of praise, of worship, of contrition, of petition, or many others. Prayer with and for others builds connection and strengthens fellowship.

Signs and Wonders

If the church is a supernatural people, we should anticipate seeing supernatural things. God is a healer, a provider, a deliverer, and many others. Seeking Him, His presence, and experiences with Him through the Holy Spirit are normal. Making space in meetings for the use of spiritual gifts ensures that healthy small groups are places of purpose and transaction – we meet God, and give Him space to meet with us.

Interdependent Living

Whilst the sharing of wealth here has been interpreted to be about socialism, that isn’t the point of this passage. It is actually saying that the church lived to serve one another and for the good of others. Those who had plenty shared with those who lacked. This would be especially pertinent in a climate where converts could be cut off by their own families, or have the state confiscate their homes and possessions. They truly served each other as needs were prevalent.

Healthy small groups with purpose are key in helping a church develop effective discipleship, training, outreach and care. We ignore them at our peril!

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