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EQUIP: Effective small group ministry can breathe life into churches, Fleming says

August 16th, 2017 / By: Keith Collier | Managing Editor / comments

HOUSTON—“Jesus had a small group strategy. Do you?” David Fleming asked a crowd of nearly 1,400 pastors and lay leaders at the 2017 SBTC EQUIP Conference, hosted by Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, Aug. 12. Fleming, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist, gave the conference keynote address, encouraging churches to see effective small group ministry as a “silver bullet” for church growth and discipleship.

“How can we breathe new life into the most comprehensive, organized structure for discipleship, evangelism, ministry, fellowship, service?”  Fleming asked.

Fleming explained from Mark 3:13 that small group ministry is not a new idea, but a very old one. Jesus gathered a small group of men who would be with him so he could send them out to do ministry. Likewise, Fleming said, churches should value small groups—whether they call them Sunday School, life groups, or whatever—as an organized system with powerful spiritual benefits, including community, accountability, discipleship, ministry, mobilization and leadership development.

Regardless of church size, Fleming said, Christians need to connect with other believers. “We are only as strong as the connections we make,” he said.

Additionally, he explained, “We become like the people we associate with,” acknowledging the discipleship and spiritual growth opportunities through small groups. For this reason, the Bible must be at the center of small group ministry.

Small groups also equip and encourage church members to take responsibility for ministry and service as well as mobilize them for missions, Fleming said. They also provide opportunities for mentoring and training up future leaders.

“Sunday School is not an organization of the church,” he said. “Your Sunday School is your church organized to fulfill the Great Commission.”

Following the opening keynote session, conference participants from more than 160 churches dispersed to breakout sessions on topics related to children’s ministry, adult Sunday School, discipleship, worship, family ministry, men’s and women’s ministry, pastoral ministry, leadership, and more. Sessions were also dedicated to equip Hispanic, Asian and black congregations. Throughout the morning and afternoon sessions, attendees chose four breakouts from a list of more than 250 options, led by 73 trainers.

Jeremy Bradshaw, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Bridge City, brought 10 people from his church.

“EQUIP was a tremendous resource for me, but also for the church staff and volunteers who came with me,” Bradshaw said. “It was the fusion of practical training and spiritual renewal that we needed to continue our mission as a church. Everything was first-rate for minimal expense on our end. It was also an encouragement for my church members to see our Cooperative Program support coming back to strengthen the local church.”

Next year’s EQUIP conference will be Aug. 11, 2018 at North Richland Hills Baptist Church. For more information, stay tuned to