Saturday, October 31, 2009

Are Small Groups for White People?

Now there's a question I would have never thought to ask. But the folks here are asking it and interviewing some who say, "Yes!"

It's a brief article; give it a read. What do you think?

I'm certain I'd disagree with some of the positions taken by folks at this church. Think female elders, for example. But even though I would never have thought to ask this question, now that it's been asked, I'd have to agree with the opening observation: I don't know many ethnic churches with vibrant small group efforts or much emphasis on small groups. I have some suspicions as to why, but first I'd be interested in your take.

Are small groups for white people?


Ben Stevenson said...

I cannot see why small groups would necessarily be a white thing. Perhaps some cultures are more used to the idea of open discussion than others.

I could point to examples of small groups in different cultural contexts e.g. Reformed Baptists in Zambia, or house groups being encouraged by an Anglican bishop in Zimbabwe, or by pentecostals in South Korea and Kenya.

However, if someone believes that small groups are for white people, then they could just dismiss these examples as exceptions to a rule.

ajcarter said...

Now here is a interesting discussion to have T. We must put this article and topic on the docket when we next get together :).

Adam and Ruth said...

Well...I grew up in a multi-ethnic church and there were no small groups, however there was great community that was built up naturally which was modeled by the pastor and everyone seemed to be that way. So the "being in each other's life with scripture and love thing" was there (more or less). Though it was done informally. I've always thought (even when I was a kid) that the black folk in our church were more outgoing and always talked to me more and my grandmother explicitly told me to model after those people. And I did notice the culture of the church was definitely different that my friends who went to basically white only churches (in the south...North Carolina church)
At risk of some hefty generalizations, maybe the dominant white culture tends to be more individualistic which makes it's way into the church and the small group idea is a good reaction to the problem of people just not knowing each other and not doing biblical fellowship.

And maybe multi-ethnic churches have more tendencies to do this because it is more in modern culture? Maybe they do it more informally because it is a cultural tendency?

Well at least that is my own experience from this armchair sociologist...

Adam and Ruth said...


Made a mistake as I re read my comment. I didn't mean (near the end of the post)

because it is more in "modern" culture..

I meant...

because it is more in "their" culture.


Terry said...

I'm not sure that small groups are limited in their appeal to whites only. I have been in small groups with American Indians, Hispanics, and blacks. All of us seemed to enjoy getting together every week or two (depending on the schedule). But as one comment mentioned, we could be exeptions to the rule.

Chris Erwin said...

Wow. I can't comment on the frequency of small groups in predominantly minority churches. But I have to say, the thing that jumps out at me in this article is the massive overgeneralization on which it's based.

"White people rely on..."

"Whites really value..."

"They say..."

Are they serious? Are the folks interviewed in this article really claiming that the roughly 221.3 million "white people" in the U.S. all do church the same way?

If I were writing an article about African-American churches (while not being a member of one) and made statements like, "Black people rely on...," "Blacks really value...," and, "Blacks say...," would anyone take me seriously?

wwdunc said...

This is an interesting idea, and one I've not thought about before. I would tend to think that small groups are not just for white people, but (thinking about the ethnic group I know best) I do think small group ministry is a foreign concept within the traditional black church.

However, having said that, I do think small groups exist in the black church, just in a different form. In the traditional black church, the "small group" is called the (Senior/Youth/Gospel/etc.) Choir, the mid-week Prayer Meeting, the adult Sunday School class, the "Ladies Missionary Society", the "Usher Board", the "Willing Workers" Club, etc. In other words, in some ways these gatherings and organizations function as small groups--places where people connect with others, pray with & for others, and feel cared for by others.

Anonymous said...

What a crazy thought? Come visit the Caribbean and see this question is ludicrous. I don't think we would ever have thought here that this was a white people thing? Much less use a term with colour to define an event! How sad that some people cannot get past using skin colour to describe events! I don't see any examples in the bible that draw the line with events and colour!

Kyle said...

I agree with Chris about the broad generalizations. I would tend to think that the things like the geographical composition of a local church might play just as big a role as the ethnicity.

One issue I haven't seen the addressed is in regard to the purpose small groups serve in the life of the church. Are they mostly social? Are they a place for elders to shepherd the flock? Are they for accountability? Are they another time for teaching? Some of those purposes could be easily achieved in a church with a great deal of organic community life, but I would think there are purposes for a small group that require a more formalized setting.