Earlier this week, I wrote about Larry Osborne’s / North Coast Church’s “venue” model of church, and questions it brings up for college ministry. I’m not promoting the model (either for church or college ministry); it forces us to ask good questions and examine some (kinda crazy) possibilities.

Another element of how they “do church,” as expressed in Sticky Church, presents a less surprising model, but it’s something useful to examine. (And it’s a model that many college ministries already use.)

Their church aims for sermon-based small groups. So instead of group leaders (or participants) choosing curriculum, Bible study options, etc., to devour as a group, it sounds like most groups simply springboard from the sermon content that week.

Likewise, there are quite a few college ministries whose small groups tie in to the content of the Large Group Meeting. In many cases, these groups meet immediately after that message is shared, breaking into tables or other clumps within the same night.

But “message-based small groups” wouldn’t have to take place on the same night, would they? Especially if you’re recording the weekly message, students can either discuss the message directly (perhaps with questions derived from the message), or use the topic to springboard – tangentially, more deeply, or otherwise.

As the last paragraph infers, there are a variety of options here. Who makes those decisions – from ministry leaders to the small group leaders – is another variable. But a couple of arguments FOR this model come pretty quickly to mind:

  • In a field of ministry where students’ attendance is often haphazard, this would cause a higher percentage of your students to be discipled in the theme(s) you’re led to in a given semester
  • This model encourages small group participation (since they know something about the topic)
  • This model encourages large group attendance (so they’re ready to chat at small group)
  • Depending on exactly how you “springboard,” this model lessens the workload for leaders and participants, who may not have to read something additional or prepare something new
  • OR, if you choose, this allows students to dive more deeply into a particular topic (if you choose to use supplemental teaching and/or materials for small groups)

As with the discussions earlier this week, I’m not particularly advocating for this model. We (as college ministers) need to discover – and be invigorated by – new models, whether we adopt them or not.