Sunday School Instead of small groups

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  1. Betty P 2011 May 12 10:06AM

    I know that a lot of the newer churches have done away with Sunday School altogether and have gone to small groups. Why not have a classroom setting Bible study other days and call it something besides Sunday school? I love the idea of learning about the Bible and teaching it... but to be honest, some of us would rather leave it at that. Small groups can get too touchy feely with people sharing marital problems and whatnot... count me out of that. But a good Bible class with discussion? Can't beat it. Has anyone tried Sunday School on other days of the week?

  2. jmillerkelley 2011 May 12 10:34AM

    I think both Bible study and more relationship-focused groups are valuable, and there's honestly more overlap than you realize. Most small groups do a Bible study or book study together as part of their fellowship, so what's wrong with that?

    If you're worried that small groups meeting in homes will be the downfall of serious Christian education, I don't think classes will ever totally go away, but building connections with others is also extremely important. I think it's a great trend, and since it's a mark of vibrant, growing churches, I think it shows it's a real felt need for people.

  3. Betty P 2011 May 12 10:57AM

    I'm not against fellowship, just the group therapy sessions and whine-fests. That's why I've almost stopped going to UMW-- you can only take so much of that sort of thing in a public setting. Bible study is important, and so is prayer-- but if you share too many personal things in a group of people, the prayer chain is activated and everyone gets on the phone-- but most of them tell everyone but God! You said that home groups are a felt need for people. I'd love to see a Gallup poll on that. I bet a lot of men are turned off by the typical small group. I'm a lifelong Methodist and sister, believe me,  I could give you an education on the United Methodist Church.

  4. phatBartimaeus 2011 May 12 12:12PM


    For sure, what a disaster that 'small group' idea would undoubtedly turn out to be. Heck we wouldn't want to do anything crazy like getting real with each other or anything.

    Whew! That was a close call.

  5. Dawn Cherie 2011 May 12 1:22PM

    As a graduate student, I think small groups are essential. Students are so transitory, that it can be difficult to establish fellowship both at your home church -- where you are gone for most of the year -- and at school where roughly 25% of the congregration moves away each year. I love being connected to a group that forces me to get to know people on a personal level. I do not think a cut-and-dry Bible study/Sunday school would help me to grow in my faith as much as my small group experiences have. Small groups are where, in addition to biblical study, I get a sense of being part of a community of believers, and where I am challenged to dig in and love my neighbors.

  6. Betty P 2011 May 12 1:55PM

    I wasn't trying to raise a fuss, just share what I see are weaknesses of small groups. Yes we need to have community and be real with others, but I for one don't want all of my personal business on the six o'clock news. Plus, if people aren't careful,  small groups can become a case of the blind leading the blind.

  7. phatBartimaeus 2011 May 12 2:26PM


    So, i guess this ( ) is what you have in mind, eh? ;-)

    No one is trying to say that doing small group well is easy, just saying it's really important, even crucial.

    by God's grace only...


  8. Rev-Kev 2011 May 16 10:14AM

    I agree with some of Betty's points. Some small groups I've been to are too inwardly focused. Rather than rehashing our own issues, maybe we should focus on those outside our group? Fighting poverty and injustice through awareness and service projects are much more important than sitting around in someone's living room navel-gazing.

  9. twbe 2011 May 17 9:58AM

    So I see this as being about covenant.

    Maybe it's not a formal covenant. Maybe it's a mutually understood and unspoken set of groundings and boundaries for what the group will or will not do.

    But every group needs one. And once there are rules or boundaries, the group needs to be accountable to living the rules and defending the boundaries, else what Betty describes may be the inevitable outcome.

    This applies to Sunday School classes to, by the way. If the class is there to study and learn, and not primarily to "fellowship," then the majority of the in-class time should be devoted to that activity. Otherwise, it won't happen.

    Small groups are not created equal. Different kinds of groups do different things, with different levels of accountability, intimacy, study, project orientation, etc. Kevin Watson put up an excellent post on small groups that I highly recommend. You can find it here:

  10. pitcheng 2011 May 18 8:17PM

    Betty, The problem isn't small group versus Sunday school. It's that the people of the group don't have the same goal.

    I ran into this as a Sunday school teacher. I had a class that didn't want to do any Bible study. They wanted strictly the social aspect of the group. It created a lot of battles. 

    However, in the same church, I've taught other Sunday school classes and led small groups that were extremely study based. In many instances, the groups were made up of some of the same people from the first Sunday school class!

    Let the church know what you are looking for and see if can create a group that meets those needs.

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