“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20
Small Group Ministry is a way for parishes to help people live out this passage from scripture. Parishes can provide numerous opportunities for the laity and encourage every parishioner to discern joining a small group. Small groups can be utilized by parishes to provide a place where people can encounter Jesus anew, grow in faith as disciples, and be equipped to be his witnesses. They’re meant to build relationships between people as they accompany each other in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which is an appropriate goal for Catholics of all ages.
Here are some possibilities for what small groups could look like for different age groups.
Small Group Ministry for adults has the framework in place for discipleship-focused gatherings with group leaders that are personally committed to leading by example. As groups form and bond, the faith of the participants will grow, and they will be encouraged to share their faith with others. Participants will be encouraged to invite others to the group, which should spark the formation of even more small groups.
When offering Alpha or ChristLife for adults, for example, consider inviting participants into a small group after the series is over. This helps them to continue to build relationships and to learn more about the faith in an interpersonal environment. Small groups for adults may focus on a specific theme or aspect of discipleship, such as parenting or learning more about scripture. As adults grow in a small group, they may be invited to lead another small group or to help others discern joining one.
Small Group Ministry for adolescents is an important part of the larger framework of youth ministry for high school and middle school aged parishioners. This can be part of the scheduled youth ministry offerings, as a component to the middle school Faith Formation program or done in addition to these.
A small group is an age-specific discipleship group that meets regularly to help adolescents grow deeper in their faith and in relationship with Christ. While an adult is always present, small groups can be either student- or adult-led. When led by an adult, small groups give adolescents a much-needed connection with adults who will accompany them in their faith life. They help teenagers walk in their relationship with Jesus as disciples with a group of their peers.
Parishes can provide leadership training and small group facilitation skills to this age group, empowering young people to be small group facilitators. Resources like Ydisciple, Summit by Life Teen, and Alpha Youth Series are great to look at to start or expand upon Small Group Ministry for this age group.
Small Group Ministry for younger children allows them to become connected to a consistent group that can significantly impact their lives. Whether it is at weekly Faith Formation, as part of a childcare offering, or as part of Children’s Liturgy of the Word, the building blocks for this ministry for children are not much different from those for adults.
Helping to engage children with God’s Word, the adult leaders help the children grow in relationship with one another and with God. This gives children a chance to process what they learn in a relationship-filled context with a leader they know and other kids they trust. Time in a small group creates a sense of community for kids whose spiritual growth is nurtured by people who care about them and know them, helping them to feel important and valued. This can be done by greeting children by name, praising their questions and curiosity, and giving them age-appropriate chances to lead, such as offering intentions, leading prayer, or suggesting additional questions for reflection.
Leaders can also benefit as they get to know their students more, find greater satisfaction in facilitating communication and have less stress planning and preparing as they utilize a small group model.
Visit the Spark Knowledge Base for more small group resources. On the left-hand side of the page, you can choose Small Group Resources under Ministry Classification and the age of your intended audience. You can also visit the Small Groups Ministry Resource Page for more information on how to get started.
Small groups play a key role in the Grow stage of the Detroit Model of Evangelization. They build community, promote spiritual growth, encourage service, and provide a place where both lifelong parishioners and newcomers can connect to a Family of Parishes. This relational ministry helps participants of all ages accompany one another as they live out the mission of the Church.