Astounding! A Small Group As Defined Decades Ago


This is day three in a series of blog posts focused on Lyman Coleman’s Serendipity small group model, a model that was given to the groups world decades ago. As I’ve mentioned in prior blog posts this week, we groups point people may need to be reminded of some of the fundamental principles and practices as it seems we may have gotten so far off the tracks that train wrecks are happening in some group ministries.

While reading Lyman’s, Serendipity Encyclopedia, I found the definition he and Roberta Hestenes gave the small group world in 1993. Check it out. I’m giving it to you as it reads.


So what is a small group, anyway? Roberta Hestenes, one of the great pioneers of the small group movement, has defined a small group in this way:

“A Christian small group is an intentional, face-to-face gathering of 3 to 12 people on a regular time schedule with the common purpose of discovering and growing in the possibilities of the abundant life in Christ.”

Consider the elements of this definition:

“intentional” – This refers to the covenant or agreement which the group establishes at the beginning to identify the responsibilities and accountability of the group members. Group members choose to be involved.

“face-to-face” – When people meet face-to-face, the gathering can produce honesty, freedom, trust, evaluation and growth uniquely found in interpersonal relationships. Besides, 90% of all communication is nonverbal.

“3-12 people” – With less than three people, you don’t have a group, and with more than 12 you begin to lose intimacy.

“regular time and schedule” – This is essential to foster loyalty and consistency among group members. Many small groups meet weekly, especially at the beginning so bonding can occur.

 “common purpose” – If a group does not share a common vision and common goals, it will eventually fail. People follow clearly understandable ideas and direction.

“discovering and growing” – A small group is an ideal place for a non-Christian to discover what following Jesus is all about. It is also a place for believers to grow in their faith.

“the abundant life” – Small groups have the capacity to make Christianity come to life through prayer, discussion, study, fellowship and ministry.


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