Side by Side… Sunday School and Small Groups, Can They Coexist?


One of the greatest myths in church life is that Sunday School and small groups cannot coexist. The truth is, not only can they coexist, they can greatly expand the depth of disciple making as well as the number of people being discipled. I know this first hand as I led a small group ministry that flourished alongside an extremely effective adult Sunday School.

My story goes something like this…  During the seeker movement, when Willow Creek Community Church and Saddleback Church were leading the way and making many church leaders aware of small groups, my pastor came seeking me out to birth a disciple making small group ministry. He asked that I leave my current ministry (a BCM Director) to come on staff full-time to be the churches small group pastor and one of the teaching pastors. Being the son of an education minister, I asked myself if it would be wise to start a small group ministry when we already had the strongest Sunday School I had ever seen? Would it be healthy for the church if I started a ministry that might be perceived as a program in competition with adult Sunday School? Would it enhance the spiritual journey of the people who were already deeply involved in church life or would it simply confuse the congregation causing them to wonder what was really being expected of them? But most importantly, would starting a small group ministry in the midst of a pre-existing and effective adult Sunday School aid or impair disciple making? After all, the primary responsibility of the church is to make disciples.

I did start a small group ministry alongside Sunday School and the outcomes were extremely positive. I hope you’ll join me in September as we talk about, 1) Why doing Sunday School and small groups is essential in today’s world, 2) How to go about starting small groups alongside a pre-existing Sunday School ministry, and 3) The thrill that comes with doing both with the goal of making disciples that make disciples.


Rick Howerton
Discipleship and Small Group Specialist
LifeWay Christian Resources

Register HERE