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Tend or Feed?

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Interesting discussion over the past couple of days about small groups. Before Saddleback I've mainly used small groups for discipleship (like a Sunday School replacement, really) where the Saddleback classic model has always had them squarely in the fellowship camp. I heard that the philosophy of the small group can be compared to that of a shepherd, and I loved the concept. Basically there's two schools of thought on the subject:

TEND - Fellowship is what you're going after. You want students to be known, cared for and in a adult mentoring relationship. Like a shepherd, you loving guide and direct sheep through the dangers of life in the wild.

FEED - Discipleship is the key. Students need to be instructed in the ways of the Word and shown God's direction for their lives. Some personal application is made, but the key here is to spread out a big feast.

I'm not sure if there's a "correct" answer in this, as I wrap my mind around it I'm beginning to think both rank on the important scale. Shepherds need to care for their sheep and protect them from danger, as well as allow them to eat and grow. Small group volunteers should probably have a firm grasp of both methods. Thoughts?


posted by Joshua Griffin @ 8:06 PM |

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At 12/07/2007, Blogger Todd said...

Why the dichotomy? As a small group "pastors" their flock of students he has to feed and tend them. To me that is an imagery of a community engaged in discipleship. The truth is you really can't disciple a student unless you have a relationship with them.

Seems to me if small groups are the fellowship program, then mentoring needs to be the answer for discipleship!

At 12/07/2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Todd hit the nail on the head.

Of the small groups I've been part of, practically all of the time was spent on discipleship. While that's great, it made it difficult for me to share because I hadn't formed relationships with many group members.

To me, a small group should first focus on fellowship. Spend as many meetings as it takes just hanging out and sharing your daily struggles with one another and, if it's the purpose of the group, to form mentor/mentee relationships.

Then, once people feel comfortable, start in with the discipleship. At that point, people should feel comfortable enough to share with their mentors/mentees which will help with personal application.

At 12/07/2007, Blogger Mike Conner said...

just as Todd said, the relationship (fellowship) builds a great foundation for the discipleship. In the minsitry where I serve, I will be launching our small groups in Jan. 08, and the main goal is fellowship, but discipleship cannot be removed.

We are trying to teach the "habits" to our students and small groups is where we are trying to make it happen. I know habits are a dicipleship process, but with our students it seems that it will work better in small groups.

Don't think there is a "concrete" way for this!

At 12/07/2007, Blogger Nick said...


I would only add that if small groups are actually developing community, then they can effectively pursue implementing any or all of the 5 purposes as a community of believers.

I do believe that you should have a primary purpose and a secondary purpose for all programs, and the standard two for me with small groups is fellowship (primary) and discipleship (secondary), however I tend to look at small groups as a different animal.

For example: Individual small groups can do a community ministry project as a group...or they could have a night where their group gets together builds a bonfire (except in S.Cal) and have a night of worship. I encourage my small group leaders to build this kind of community within their small groups, all of the purposes do not have to be implemented as a large group, a lot of times they are more effectively implemented on a smaller level.

Students get involved in these things because they feel comfortable with their group.

At 12/07/2007, Anonymous thatangiegirl.wordpress.com said...

Wow, this really has me thinking about what our youth ministry is offering, and what it is lacking. Or if we're calling certain practices by the wrong name. Hmmm. Thanks for sharing.


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