Sermon-based small groups take this haphazard learning-and-growing process into account. They’re perfectly fitted to the way spiritual growth actually takes place.
The focus of a sermon-based small group is not so much on the curriculum as it is on the process. There is no set body of information that must be covered in a particular order. The topic in any one week simply flows out of whatever was taught in the previous weekend’s sermon.
The ultimate goal of a sermon-based small group is simply to velcro people to the two things they will need most when faced with a need-to-know or need-to-grow situation: the Bible and other Christians.
On the one hand, the “sermon-based” aspect of these groups guarantees that the Bible remains close at hand. It really doesn’t matter if some sermons are home runs and some are duds. The simple process of handling the Scriptures on a regular basis and looking into them to see what they say sets the stage for future need-to-know or need-to-grow moments.
In fact, the seemingly arbitrary nature of the topics covered in weekend sermons drives home the point that the Bible speaks to an incredible array of subjects. This apparent randomness sends a message that God has an answer somewhere in his Word, no matter what situation we face.
On the other hand, the “small group” aspect of a sermon-based group guarantees that we’ll be close enough to other Christians to benefit from their knowledge and support.
The Bible is a big and complex book. Even Bible scholars occasionally need the help of other Christians and scholars to grasp all that it says and implies.
While it’s true that a Lone Ranger can learn a lot through self-study, Lone Rangers (and even Brains on a Stick who know the Bible inside out) aren’t exempt from need-to-know and need-to-grow moments. Yet when they are faced with one, their isolation guarantees that the only thing they’ll know is what they already know.
As for wise counsel, a warm hug, or a swift kick in the rear, those are rather hard to self-administer. If we don’t already have those kinds of relationships in place, it’s usually too late to pull them together once a need-to-know or need-to-grow crisis hits with full force.
Larry Osborne, Sticky Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).