5 Reasons Small Faith Sharing Groups are Essential
By Ryan Multer
Recently I had the opportunity to meet with many small group participants and leaders throughout the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. At each parish the people I spoke with had enjoyed their experience and would participate in the future. These encounters lead me to make five observations on why small groups are vital for parishes today:
1. Allows for Catholics to be Connected
Small groups provide a way for people to connect to other parishioners and Catholics. Participants were thankful for an opportunity to meet other parishioners – some whom they sat next to every Sunday and yet never exchanged a single word. Furthermore, participants felt a greater connection to the larger parish community as a result of their experience. Small group members came to understand that the foundation of the Church is the people and not the physical gathering space. One woman shared with me that previously her Mass attendance had been split amongst a few parishes and did not feel that she was a part of any community. After participating in a small group for six weeks, she became a proud and active member of that parish. The connections formed in small groups reach far beyond the initial sessions.
2. Creates an Opportunity for Invitation
Faith sharing groups can be an avenue to invite seekers and inactive Catholics. Many participants have a positive and powerful experience that they share with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, etc. I met a man who was invited by a friend to join a faith sharing group; he had not been to Mass in a number of years. The group was a doorway for him to enter back into Church and he is now a regular Mass goer. Small groups can be a less intimidating entrance point than Mass. In addition, outsiders are able to take a peek into the Catholic life which allows them to see that the people of the Church are normal individuals trying to live a faithful life.
From hearing the stories of participants it was overwhelmingly convincing that small groups are effective at connecting Catholics and assisting them to live out the Gospel. Individuals had a deeper understanding of their call to live as disciples. People expressed over and over again how they were attempting to live more faithfully. One participant told me her prayer life was so much more fruitful as a result of her small group experience. As previously mentioned, group members became more connected to one another and the larger community. A parish leader said that members did not want to leave the church grounds after the session because they were still involved in powerful conversations.
Small groups are also flexible. From rural farm communities to affluent suburban parishes to downtown areas of young adults, small groups can be tailored to the diverse needs of individual parishes. Small groups can easily adapt to the needs of a wide variety of people. The discussion and sharing portions of groups will reflect this. In one parish they found it best to gather in a large room with several groups where they would pray and do certain parts as a large group. The sharing parts were done in smaller groups. A group of young adults changed a few parts to appeal specifically to young people. The possibilities are endless.
5. Easy to implement
One of the best things about small groups is they are easy to initiate and implement. Groups simply need a resource and a leader. There are many faith sharing resources available on the market. Nearly every Catholic publisher offers resources for different topics. PEM recently released its Faith Series. This series offers sharing on the sacraments, virtues, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Visit for more information. A quick internet search will yield thousands of results of resources, many are free. A group also needs a leader to assist in keeping the meetings on topic and ensure everyone has an opportunity to share. Most resources do not require the leader has extensive training or Masters in Theology. Parish leaders can easily identify and invite apt parishioners to be group leaders.
As you can see, there are many benefits to small faith sharing groups and there are a wide variety of resources are available to help with forming small groups.
For more information on Lenten small groups and Living the Eucharist visit: www.livingtheeucharist.org.
For PEM resources available for for small groups click here.
Ryan Multer is the executive coordinator for Paulist Evangelization Ministries.