Once you have decided to form a small group, the next step is to nail down a location. The two most obvious choices are on your church campus and in a private home. Both of these locations have benefits and drawbacks that can affect the success of your Bible study and your sense of community.
Why Choose an On Campus Small Group?
There are many benefits to having bible study on your church property. You likely will have an easy time finding and reserving space for any number of people. There will be no need to procure extra seating or better lighting. In addition, meeting on campus offers a neutral location where everyone feels equal ownership of the group. It encourages engagement with the church community as a whole rather than splitting off as a group. Last, leaders do not have to worry about cleaning or hosting, which can often interfere with their spiritual experience in the group.
However, there are downsides as well. On campus meetings feel more churchy and less friendly to people who are trying to connect on a more personal basis. In addition, the formal feeling may prevent developing a sense of community.
Why Go Off Campus?
There are a few reasons that holding Bible study off campus can be a beneficial arrangement. Home environments are, well, homey. Many people enjoy practicing discipleship in the same private settings where early Christians began their ministry rather than in a modern large church building. In addition, there is nothing to schedule with the church and no worries about whether the door will be left open or the heater turned on in time to heat the study room.
There are clear disadvantages to off campus groups as well. What to do with children is a perpetual concern. If guests are allergic to pets, this can present a challenge. It also can be hard to find enough seating and lighting to accommodate even a medium sized group. Sometimes it is hard to disseminate assignments due to the lack of office equipment, although websites such as StudyChurch can streamline this. Last, small groups that occur off campus seem more likely to go off topic and to go late.
There is no one way to run a small group ministry. Whether to hold your small groups on or off campus will ultimately depend on the type of ministry you wish to have and the amount of space and resources that your church can contribute. The most important thing is to keep your focus on growth and discipleship, whatever your setting.