Small Groups the Serendipity Way, Four Revealing Group Types


If you read yesterday’s blog post you’re aware that I’m unveiling some of Lyman Coleman’s astoundingly important principles and practices that he established decades ago. Most would agree that Lyman is the father of contemporary small group practices in the United States.

Way too many of those principles and practices have been discarded, overlooked, or ignored. Perhaps we need to reconsider the wisdom of Lyman Coleman.

One of the essential understandings Lyman recognized was the importance of different types of groups to meet the needs of different types of people. He suggested four group types. As you read about each of them you’ll realize that Lyman established some group types decades ago that are being used throughout Christiandom today.

Below you’ll see the four group types Lyman promoted and a description of each of them.

Support Group

The purpose of a Support Group is to offer mutual support around a common need or concern, such as: divorce, grief and loss, unemployed or unfulfilled, single parents, parents of preschoolers, adoptive parents, newly married, blended families, caregivers of Alzheimer’s, and victims of abuse, violence, SIDS, AIDS, etc…

This group is short-term – seven to 13 weeks, with low-level entry – that is, all that is required of a group member is to show up. After the initial period is over, the group can dismiss or switch to another, longer, group model.

All you need to be a leader of a Support Group is life experience. If you are a single parent, you would make a good leader of a short-term support group for single parents.


Pulpit Group

The purpose of this group is to link the teaching of the pulpit to a sharing group after the sermon. This is the easiest group to launch and to lead.

The congregation who attends regularly will like this kind of group because it requires no homework and very few skills to lead the group. A handout in the Sunday bulletin gives the group the questions to start the group meeting, to discuss the Scripture passage and to apply the passage to their lives.

The group can meet immediately after the worship service during Sunday school, Sunday evening, or any other time during the week.

All you need to be the leader of a Pulpit Group is an interest in people and attendance at the Sunday morning worship service.


Discipleship Group

The purpose of a Discipleship Group is to offer a group for the 10% highly committed people in the church to heavy-duty Bible study and grow through accountability.

(Lyman then list a series of studies, most of which are no longer available.) Most of these programs require two to four hours of study before the meetings, they last for one year, and offer and option for another year of study.

Hopefully, everyone a church will get to the place in their spiritual journey that they feel the need to be in a year-long Discipleship Group. But our experience has found that only 10% of a church will sign up for this group – so if you only offer this kind of a group you will write of 90% of your people.


Covenant Group

The purpose of a Covenant Group is to become an extended family over a long period of time. Unlike the other three models, the Covenant Group is targeted for all four levels of commitment – the 10%, 30%, 60% and people at the door.

The symbol for a Covenant Group is a diamond – because “diamonds are forever.”

The Covenant Group begins by people making a “covenant” for six weeks. After this trial period, the group can renew their covenant for the rest of the year (or school year) … and for another year if they wish.

The leader of a Covenant Group needs to know a little more about group process and caregiving.


The information in this blog post comes from the Serendipity Encyclopedia by Lyman Coleman



One comment

  1. I do not have the Serendipity Encyclopedia in m library, but will get it. I agree with “the importance of different types of groups to meet the needs of different types of people.” It bothers me when the latest small group trend is pushed as the only type of group needed in the church.

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