General Ministry
Josh Griffin

Some conversations this week combined with our small group leader training has me thinking about changing the name of our small groups. Just a far-fetched idea and rambling at this point, but thought I would share it here and see if there would be some action in the comments.

The primary purpose of our small groups is fellowship. We emphasize “life-on-life” conversations, accountability and community. Secondarily we strive for discipleship, asking small group leaders to teach Bible topics and lessons in a relevant and personal way to our students. We’ve called these groups in the past “Area Bible Studies (ABS)” and currently HSM Small Groups. But I’m wondering if the name combined with the emphasis on a curriculum, tips the scale toward discipleship and undermines the value of sharing life authentically together? I’m wondering if by default students expect a Bible class or theology lesson, instead of bibical community centered around God’s Word?

In a perfect world and our current discipleship process, I would say that groups should be 70-80% fellowship, and 20-30% fellowship. I wonder if it could be done without specfic materials at all, but share the outpouring of the leader’s and students’ walk with God. I wonder if there is a more accurate expression for our groups that convey the purpose more effectively.

Maybe we should call them … Life Groups.

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If you have small groups, what purpose do they serve and what do you call them? I’d love to know and discuss.


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  • Jarrod Newton says:

    We recently went through this process… at a local church level but also for the youth discipleship resource that we have released from our denominational head office. We’d tried the term ‘Small Groups’, but we moved away from it because we wanted people to understand that it was healthy for a group to grow and multiply. Secondly we tried the term ‘Cell Groups’, but we encountered a lot of confusion between the intended meaning (cell = the biological thing that multiplies to create life) and the unintended meaning (cell = the place where you lock up criminals. Which was ironically still appropriate for some of our groups. Ha!).

    And yep, after lots of discussion and exploration, we finally settled on the term… Life Groups.

    And the reason we settled on that name was exactly the reasons you’ve listed – we want to emphasise values like connectedness, accountability, authenticity and community. And we want to communicate that discipleship isn’t about head knowledge or program attendance but that discipleship flows out of relationship.

  • Matthew says:

    We used to call them Small groups we now call them Action Groups. they respond to messages, have scripture that each group is reading through Scripture and hope to discuss both our youth worship messages and the scripture.

    Leaders like it because they are only out one night a week instead of two.

  • Jay Higham says:

    Hey Josh, I just changed ours. Up until last week we were planning to launch our new small groups. But at the last minute I thought that the term was limiting and scary. We are now calling them Care Groups, to fulfill our purpose statement, “to care for others.”
    I have a number of new adult leaders. It’s easier to get them to think, “I need to care about these students,” then, “wow, I need to disciple these students?” They fear that they are not equip to “disciple” students, but they are more then willing to love them, care for them, and encourage them to grow in their faith. See the simple spin in the terminology. They will be discipling their students before they know it. It’s like you said, “Life-on-Life.”

    For the students, especially the new ones, the term, small groups is scary. What does that mean? What’s required? What weird stuff will I have to do? Instead, Care Group, conveys the idea of someone caring about them, who they are, and what they are living for. After all, students want to know that someone loves them.

    And because we offer weekly Bible studies, we fulfill our discipleship purpose.

    jay higham


  • Chris says:

    We used to call them small groups or small group Bible Studies. Because I inherited the name of the youth group (WAVE) we’ve kind of run with a water theme – WAVE being our ‘entry-level’ anyone come ‘big weekly youth group’ we had to find a fitting name for these small groups. For about three years we’ve called our small groups DIVE (groups). This summer when we started promoting the fall kick-off we tried something new – we’ve begun calling them DIVE Life-groups. True the kids will probably always refer to it as DIVE (which is fine) but it gets the purpose of these groups out there – DIVE = going deeper in The Word, and in our relationships with each other and Life-groups = the relational, doing life together aspect.

    I say go for it! Change is good!

  • Rachel says:

    We call our groups Community Life Groups. My heart and purpose for these groups is not that they gain more Bible knowledge, but that they are able to have spiritual fellowship together with accountability and this just so happens to be spurred on because of Bible Study. I value Bible Study. I value knowing and learning about the Bible, but my students have so much of that already that I hope our small groups can spring off from that to the point that it becomes a part of their lives. I view discipleship and spiritual fellowship as both essential and two of the foundational pieces to the growth and health of our high school students that need to work in conjunction with one another.

  • Matthew McNutt says:

    I’m curious about your math … “I would say that groups should be 70-80% fellowship, and 20-30% fellowship.” So you want your groups to be somewhere between 90% and 110% fellowship? 😉

  • Parker Stech says:

    I think you would get more students if you used the word “gaggle” (like a gaggle of geese) instead of “group”. But that’s just my opinion. I do like the name “Life Group” more than “Small Group”. However, “Life Group” doesn’t feel like the, “YES! THAT’S IT!” of group names.

  • Adam J says:

    I’m with McNutt – at least you aren’t promoting tutoring skills for homework…

  • Ewald says:

    We value doing life together – call the groups “tribes”

  • Todd Smith says:

    We call ours “Grounded.” We stress being grounded in the word of God. We use an oak tree with exposed roots as our logo. We also play on the “I’m grounded!” idea when making announcements.

  • Brett says:

    We call our groups “Journey Groups” emphasizing the idea that each of them is on a journey (in both life and faith), and that they should not journey alone.

  • Josh Atkins says:

    We used to call ours “Cell Groups”, (like an earlier post mentioned), but I never was much of a fan. We threw around different names with different people (asking their opinion) and many of the conversations were the same. But with every name, we were having to explain what it was and in every description, we kept saying, “It’s a small group…” or “It’s like a small group…”. So we decided to stick with “Small Groups” because there’s less confusion and little to know explanation about what our name means. It’s worked out really well for us.

  • Doug Ranck says:

    We decided to go with the tried and true name of LIFE GROUPS. It’s a name adequately describing the purpose of the groups. We call our leaders to “do life” with their students. Two primary questions are asked everytime we meet: “What is God teaching you?” and “How can we pray for you?” With these questions any number of issues arise and we are able to really care for our youth.

  • John Harney says:

    Thinking of calling our groups “Tribes”. Seth Godin anybody?

  • brandon riley says:

    we went through that a year ago and changed them to d_groups for discipleship groups. small groups can be vague in its purpose which is why we moved away from the name

  • Tom Neary says:

    We call ours “Fuel Cells” … Emphasis on reading and applying God’s Word and relationships….

  • Scott Tinman says:

    I too was wondering about Josh’s math…guessing one is for fellowship and the other for discipleship…now which one is which?

    Ours are called d-groups but one that has been inherited and I haven’t changed that yet…notice the key word yet. I like the idea of Life Groups, but maybe if you are using the new LIVE Curriculum try Live Groups:)

    We are thinking through a change and Life Groups or Tribes are ones that are at the tp of the list with the similar idea of focusing on community, connecting, discipleship and care.

  • brian pickerel says:

    I like your way of thinking. We are always evaluating our discipleship process, and wondering how we can do a better job. My question is once you move them through a weekend service, the next step is small group or life group. What’s next for you guys? When do you teach theology(focus more on discipleship), or do you in all areas, but with different applications based on who the audience is? After they come to small group, where do they go from there?

    I think life fits better for what you are trying to communicate personally.

  • Pat Lynch says:

    I totally get where you’re coming from Josh. We have been using the term LifeGroup for the past 8 years and for almost the very reason that you have stated. So I am biased but whatever you call them I think it’s great it’s being discussed.

  • JD Cope says:

    We call ours community groups. They are focused on 1)connecting with God 2) connecting with others and 3) connecting with community(ie-serving in a soup kitchen together). Instead of a set curriculum which focuses students more on a teacher and learning, we use sermon guides based on the messages that we teach in our student services and sometimes our adult services. It’s different but we’ve seen just as many students give their lives to Christ and follow through with baptism this year through our Community Groups than our services.

  • Tim Lemons says:

    We call ours lifegroups. I think that is a good name for them.

  • chris harkins says:

    We are going with Tribes.

  • […] we made the change from calling them small groups to calling them life groups – it only took m… It is a bit of a semantic thing, but I’m a big fan of the switch. Rather then focus on their […]

  • Enok says:

    I am a single 40 year old women. I woednr if there is a weekly Bible study for singles in my age group. I attend a church in Yucaipa and we don’t have any singles ministries up here. Thank you for your time.In Christ,Tracy Lambert

  • We are currently in the process of building a youth ministry from scratch. Since they haven’t had a youth pastor for 6 years it’s been a process. We kicked off our small group environments about a month ago, but instead of small groups we are calling them D-Groups (Discipleship Groups). This may changed because currently we only have a girl group and a guy group. It’s a work in progress!

  • Jared says:

    We had small groups going on in different forms, but with little interest over last couple years.

    I really wanted to focus on connecting students to each other and to God. Simply put we relaunched re-focused and re-named our groups to Connect groups. So far the kids have never been more excited to join in and participate.

  • Mo says:

    The youth group that I’m apart of calls them Family Groups instead of small groups. It’s because we are coming together as a family in Christ. I’m one of the volunteer adult leaders at my church and not one of the youth ministers.

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