Are Equipping Classes the Enemy of Small Groups?

Mark Howell Sees “5 Commitments That Propel and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry.” Here’s a summary of his five commitments:

  1. Connecting everyone to a small group is a top objective every year.
  2. Small group membership is an essential step in the strategy.
  3. Small group ministry is designed to make disciples.
  4. Significant investment in leadership development is a priority.
  5. The senior pastor is the primary champion/spokesperson for the small group ministry year in and year out.

One of these commitments jumped out at me.

Small group membership is an essential step in the strategy. This is sometimes a little tricky but always very important. If your church features a kind of buffet or a menu with multiple options to choose from for adults (i.e., Sunday morning classes, Wednesday night classes, discipleship groups, off-campus small groups, etc.), there is a strong possibility that you’re not clearly identifying active membership in a small group as essential.


This is something I’ve observed from both sides. When I served at Grace Church in Des Moines, IA, we transitioned from a Sunday School church to a hybrid model that emphasized “church-based groups” and “home-based groups.” This was a compromise in transitioning from a very traditional, strong Sunday School model to a small group model. In addition, we offered equipping classes on Wednesday nights.

At my current church, First Family Church, we have the luxury of being a church that was started as a small group church. This past year, we completed a new children’s wing and student center, and we were able to add three classrooms for adult education. I’m excited by the opportunity to offer a variety of classes on topics we have not had the opportunity to offer in the past. Yet, I want to be sure not to weaken our small group ministry as we begin to offer more classes and learning opportunities.

Have you found a healthy balance in your church as you pursue a robust small group ministry and more customized learning opportunities through equipping classes?