It is reckoned that if a newcomer to the church doesn’t join a small group within a short period of time after coming to Sunday services, it is unlikely they will still be there in a year’s time. That’s because it is in small groups that we can make friends and get to be family. It’s a safe place where people can learn to minister, receive and grow in the use of spiritual gifts and develop an increasing level of intimacy and accountability as part of the process of spiritual growth, maturity and wholeness.
In groups of 8-15, people can meet weekly to learn to express their love for God in a warm and non-threatening atmosphere. There they pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens, confess their sins to one another, encourage each other and learn from each other. It’s the place where people get to practice hospitality towards one another, be forgiving of one another and stir up each other to acts of love and kindness both within the group and beyond into the community.
Most of the small groups in CCV are mixed in terms of gender although a number of groups catering for women only meet on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. There is a family group that meet on a Sunday where parents and their children enjoy fellowship together. Some of the mixed groups target the 18-35 age group. Most groups meet on either a Wednesday or Thursday evening. Getting into a small group for the first time can be facilitated in a number of ways: newcomers to the church are encouraged to attend a “Get Connected” event, which are held periodically and where all recent visitors to the church get to find out more about what goes on at CCV and to ask questions- this can lead to someone subsequently deciding to join a small group; a simple telephone call to any of the SG leaders listed on the back of the bulletin whose group appears to be in a convenient location, can allow anyone to go along to a small group at anytime during the year – people can move around groups for a time until they find one in which they feel most comfortable; the SG Pastor can also advise those who want to join a group as to which one might best suit them and which is not already over-subscribed; just going along with a friend can often be the easiest way to access a small group.
Creating a culture of care is paramount to life in small groups. This is not just the responsibility of SG leaders but of all small group members. It is the goal of the small group to provide mutual, inter-active care for one another. This can include, for example, hospital visits when appropriate. Sometimes the presenting needs may require support from outside the group which is why a support structure exists that allows specific needs or situations to be referred through the SG leader to their coach, SG Pastor, Pastoral Care leaders and Lead Pastor as appropriate. It is in this way that the diverse needs across the church body are managed.
Finally, such is the importance attached to small groups that membership of one of them is considered a pre-requisite to baptism and engaging in other ministries in the church. It is in small groups that skills can be practised, gifts encouraged, character developed and spiritual formation promoted in such a way that members are equipped to play an increasingly active part in the life of the church and wider community.