The director of Small Groups has a blog, where he discusses small Christian groups.
I've been a Christian for about eight years. In that time, I've participated in several small groups: RCIA (Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults) and through a Renew program at my church. My Renew group was faith-sustaining in its first six-week season but after that, we were joined by a very talkative, very opinionated, very self-involved individual. The group had no leader--we were all just a bunch of nice Christians--and eventually we just stopped meeting because it was too unpleasant to be in a room with this fellow. That is to say, we did not as a group have the ability to confront and work through conflict.
My main experience with the Christian small group has been in post-abortion recovery.
I didn't realize until a few months ago that there is something called "the small group movement." Mega-churches, especially, are part of the small groups movement. They have come to understand that Christians need places where they can be seen and heard for who they really are, that Christians need more of a sense of belonging and fellowship than one experiences at Sunday worship, and that many Christians need a place where emotional and spiritual growth reliably occurs. These things can and often do happen in small groups.
Early Christians met and grew in small groups.
As I've discussed the theory and practice of small groups with friends and acquaintances over the last months, sometimes I get a blank stare. Often it turns out that the confused person has been a long-time participant in a thriving Christian small group, but doesn't think of it that way. For example, one friend has met once a month for twenty-five years with the group of married couples she and her husband met at their Marriage Encounter weekend. They have sustained each other and their marriages in these monthly meetings.
Many people who are IN a Christian small group or community of one kind or another don't understand that there are lots of lonely Christians who are not in any kind of a small Christian community. Thus, they don't understand the need for the Church as a whole to encourage and lead the growth of small Christian community opportunities.
Many people in America are better friends with the cast of their favorite television show than they are with any real people.
In the past, when people have completed an abortion recovery program--which are examples of small Christian communities--I have referred them for aftercare to therapists, and given them long lists of books to read on various recovery and faith-building subjects. Now, I am thinking that for most people, what they really need is a way to connect in some degree of intimacy with a local Christian community via membership in a small group.