A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to be part of the Saddleback Church Small Groups Conference in Atlanta.  This was an east coast offering of the same conference that was held at Saddleback back in February.  A few thousand people were there to worship God and learn about Small Groups.

I lead a breakout on “Transitioning Sunday School to Small Groups.”  Some attendees were excited to finally “get the answers” and others were upset because they thought they knew the “answer” I was going to give and were upset thinking they were going to hear me say “do away with Sunday School”.  Well, to both of their surprises, I did not give “that answer” because I don’t believe there is one.  What I gave was a way to practice the principles that Small Groups that we all want to see lived out in ever believer. 

The Small Group principles of relationships (community), discipleship (more like Jesus next year than this year), accountability (sharing life together) and service (serving at church and in neighborhood/world) can be lived out in Sunday School.  However, many Sunday School classes focus only on Bible knowledge with little community, accountability or service.  We have allowed an on-campus, academic process to creep in without us noticing what we were losing. 

At FBC Smyrna, although most of the adults are in off-campus Small Groups, we do have some Sunday School classes that are having success because they understand the principles and are practicing them on a weekly basis.  It is not about one or the other, it is about the principles of the Christian life that we have to emphasize. 

As a Minister of Education for more than 15 years, and now the Executive Director of GroupLife for FBC Smyrna, I have fought for the starting of new units.  In those 15 years we would start one or two groups per year.  However, over the last 2 years I have seen more adults get involved in Bible Study through groups than I have in the previous 18 years combined.  We started 40 new groups in February 2008 alone. 

FBC Smyrna experienced a God-sent increase of 60% in adult Bible Study enrollment, attendance by starting new Small Groups.  This was the result of 2-3 years of praying, planning and implementing the principles of Small Groups throughout the entire organization.  As Brad Johnson said to me “we often over estimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate what we can accomplish in 10 years.”  This is not a quick process!

I gave the more than 200 in attendance a three to six month pilot implementation plan to help classes move toward practicing these principles and starting more groups.  Needless to say, both groups left with new hopes and dreams of seeing Discipleship, Community and Service come to life in their classes and groups.