The Words of the Urban Family

The Small Group Book

Richard Urban

Review, The Small Group Book
By Dale Galloway & Kathi Mills


This is an excellent book written by the man who has developed the largest small group or lay leader driven Church in North America, New Hope Community Church in Portland, Oregon. I highly recommend it for anyone doing small group ministry. Dale Galloway speaks from experience, which counts for a lot.

The model laid out in the book is one of lay pastoring and discipling, which occurs in small groups. As Tribal Messiah’s, we are all lay pastors, so this model fits perfectly with our vision. Galloway recommends that all small groups be open groups, meaning that new guests are welcome to attend at any time. Also, he recommends that the groups be ongoing, so that you don’t have to keep starting over.

Evangelism, discipleship, shepherding, and service are all seen as important aspects of small groups. However, there must always be a focus on evangelism. Here, I include an excerpt from the book:

The Four Purposes of Small Groups

There are basically four purposes for our small groups, each of which I consider equally important. These purposes are the following:

1. Evangelism--I remember being at a training meeting where a white-haired man named John Smith, a retired plumber, came forward. He was weeping tears of joy as he told of three people who had received Christ in their small group that week. John was so excited! He explained that the conversions happened as they discussed one of the questions for that week's lesson, "How does one become a Christian?" One person in the group said, "I really don't know." Two other people chimed in and said they didn't know either. The other members of the group began to share their testimonies of how they had come to Christ. By the end of the evening, they led these three precious people in the sinner's prayer and had the joy of seeing them receive the Lord Jesus Christ. That's how evangelism works in small groups.

2. Discipleship--There is no possible way we could begin to teach and disciple all our new converts at New Hope if it weren't for the discipling that takes place within our small-group ministry. In small groups converts begin to learn and grow in the things of Christ, and even have the opportunity for on-thejob ministry training as they grow.

3. Shepherding--It is in the small groups that our peoplecare and heart-to-heart ministry takes place. Lay leaders are doing what our pastoral staff cannot possibly do, giving necessary personal care to thousands of members.

4. Service--Small groups provide tremendous opportunities for people to use their gifts in ministry. Great, untapped resources are discovered and used in small-group ministry.

Although I see all of these purposes as equally important, a healthy small-group system must always see evangelism as its continuing mission. To keep evangelism thriving in small groups, you must continue to push people out of their comfort zones by encouraging them to call on new people, putting the names of new prospects into their hands, and continually keeping the message of evangelism before them.

Leadership within the Small Group

To build and maintain a thriving small-group ministry, I believe it is necessary to have three leadership positions within each nurture or care group: a leader, an assistant leader, and a host/hostess. Filling these positions is essential to pre-' vent leader burnout and build longevity into the groups.

The leader is the facilitator of the group, a lay pastor who has completed lay-pastor training. The assistant leader is the leader's apprentice, a lay. pastor in training who assists the leader while preparing to start a new group. The host or hostess takes the pressure off the leader and assistant by providing a home for the group meeting, as well as snacks for any fellowship time. The following are job descriptions for each of these three leadership positions in our small-group system.

Tender Loving Care Group Leader Job Description

(must be a trained lay pastor)

1. Make a phone call and home visit to all prospects, members, and friendship card assignments.

2. Work with the host/hostess to make people comfortable.

3. Talk and pray with the assistant leader and host/hostess before each meeting.

4. Report to the district pastor each month on the progress of the assistant leader.

5. Initiate the conversational prayer.

6. Lead the Bible lesson and discussion.

7. Be responsible for the report of the TLC meeting.

Tender Loving Care Group

Assistant Leader Job Description

(must be a lay-pastor trainee)

1. Make a phone call and home visit to all prospects, members, and friendship card assignments.

2. Open the group meetings.

a. Introduce guests

b. Initiate an icebreaker activity: for example, "Today was a good day because..."; "My favorite color is..."; "My favorite time of the day is...'; "One good thing that's happened since last week is..."

3. Make announcements as needed.

4. Lead the sharing time.

5. Plan the refreshment schedule.

6. Arrange for babysitting.

7. Lead the lesson and discussion occasionally as requested by the leader.

8. Complete and return the TLC Group Meeting Report sheet.

Tender Loving Care Host or Hostess Job Description 1. Take advantage of the hospitality training that is offered in our church.

2. Provide a comfortable home (or restaurant/business place).

3. Set up refreshments before the meeting time.

4. Arrange chairs in cooperation with the leader.

5. Have extra Bibles and pencils available for those who forget theirs.

6. Show people where to put coats.

7. Set an atmosphere of love and acceptance for everyone---regular attenders and guests.

8. Wait until guests leave before cleaning up and re-arranging furniture.

Knowing these job descriptions ahead of time prevents any confusion for those coming in to these positions of leadership. Making sure that all three of these positions are filled prevents burnout among leaders. I remember when my wife and I were leading small groups. We'd been doing it for years, and one Thursday night I came home and Margi said, "Our group's coming in tonight, and I need to have you run the vacuum and help me clean house."

Now, I'd had a long day, and although I knew my wife had also been extremely busy, cleaning house was not what I'd had in mind to do when I came home. For the first time, I found myself dreading our small-group meeting. The situation also gave me some insight into what lay leaders in all churches face--overload! We must set up a system with a fair division of labor so no one person's load is too heavy.

Suggested Order of Service for Small Groups

One of the keys to making small-group ministry work is a suggested order of service for the groups. The following is the one we use for our own TLC groups:

1. Opening

Introduction of guests

Icebreaker activity

Suggested Time 2 minutes

2. Opening prayer

Suggested Time 2 minutes

3. Praise Testimonies Singing

Reports of answered prayer; Appreciation for each other; Thanksgiving to God

10 minutes

4. Conversational prayer

5-10 minutes

5. Bible lesson with practical application

30 minutes

6. Intercessory prayer for help in applying the lesson

5-10 minutes

7. Closing prayer in The Lord's Prayer Doxology

2 minutes


60 minutes

Of course we don't necessarily follow this plan rigidly, but these are the elements we want to have in each meeting. We. recommend to our leaders that they keep their meetings to one hour. If we don't put some sort of time limit in place, when everyone is having a good time, leaders decide to go another hour--or two! Then pretty soon we have group members coming home from a long day at work thinking, "I'm just too tired to go to the small-group meeting tonight. I'll never make it that long!" We need to look at small-group ministry as "for the long haul." We want people to come back week after week, not just have a good time one week and then not return. So we urge our leaders to stay as close to one hour as possible. After the meeting is adjourned, if people want to stay then that's up to them, but the rest of the people are free to leave.

As you can see, the book has excellent practical advice. We are using this format in a Family Federation type twice monthly meeting. Our first guest attended last week, and she enjoyed the meeting. We are using Henri Schauffler’s small group study entitled "Building a Principled Family Life". We meet on the first and third Saturdays of each month from 7 pm to 8 pm. My wife Stacey serves as the hostess, as the group leader I am responsible for preparing and leading the study, and another sister is the assistant group leader. It is important to have these three positions, and keeping the meeting to about one hour is good.

Our family is reaching out in our neighborhood using a survey. We are inviting people to the meeting, and in time, it will grow.

Please see our web site at for more information and materials, and to see our journal about building a Tribe on Capitol Hill.

Richard Urban

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