Small group. Community group. Discipleship group. Village group. Cell group. On and on I could go. No matter what you call it, the idea of people meeting together on a consistent basis for the purpose of growing in faith and community is nothing new. People want to have like-minded people with whom they can walk through life, navigating the hard times and celebrating the good ones. Students are no different—they have a natural desire to be included and encouraged by their peers.

No one argues the importance of community. There is, however, some debate on whether groups should be open or closed. Personally, I think the type of group you choose is up to the group itself. But for the purposes of this post, let’s look at three benefits of open groups.

1) Open groups create an opportunity for students to “invest and invite.”
When a student finds something they enjoy, they want to invite their friends to be a part of it. We all want students to feel excited about our ministries, right? When small groups are open, it makes it easier for students to reach out and bring their friends because there’s a natural fit for them. And their friends are more likely to return because they have a comfortable place to connect.

2) Open groups keep groups from becoming too static.
One of the main arguments against open groups is the idea that there’s no consistency. But the reality is, whether you’re group is open or closed, you’re going to have core students who show up each week and provide the foundation of your group. When your group always looks exactly the same, things can get stale—even close-minded. When you allow new students in your group, however, your group is exposed to new backgrounds, ideas, and viewpoints. We all benefit from other people’s authenticity. We all grow when we hear other people share their stories. In that way, open groups expand the influence in your students’ lives.

And honestly, it’s just more interesting.

3) Open groups allow students to lean into one another.
Have you ever been in a situation where you wish someone could relate? You wish someone was there for you because they knew exactly what you were going through? Open groups offer the opportunity for more diversity over time—diversity that gives more students a chance to find people who can relate to them. The end result is that students will learn more from each other, and lean more into each other.

As a small group leader, there’s nothing better than pouring into a student, and then having the chance to watch as they pour into someone else. It’s the circle of life (yes, you should be picturing The Lion King right now). Maybe “the circle of ministry” is a less dramatic way to describe it.

These are just three simple benefits from open small groups. But the reality is, small groups—whether open or closed—are beneficial to the spiritual growth and health of your students. The important thing is that you give them the opportunity to be in community.

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