Small Groups & Communion

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Eating the equivalent of a savory version of Listerine Breath Strip and drinking half of an espresso shot of wine (or grape juice, for us Baptists) is a huge deal in the Church today.

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

The weight a local church places on communion (a.k.a., the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist), the frequency it’s practiced, who administers it, how it is administered, whether it’s fresh bread or stale, the effect (or affect…I never know which to use) it has on a person’s life (the removal of sin, a dispensation of grace, a memorialization, etc.), what happens in the bread and wine (does it change from its visible form to the actual body and blood of Christ?), among other debates points to the significance of this symbolic post-breakfast, incredibly light and untasty, snack.

One thing I’m working through at Grace is the idea of small groups holding communion with their group.  I know that many people will throw up red flags at the very thought of communion happening outside of the walls of a church building, administered by someone not on a church staff.  But hear me out.

It seems to make sense for a few reasons.

Why it makes sense to encourage communion in small groups:

1. It’s difficult to do on Sunday mornings because of the way our theater is set up.  Holding services in a school has its limitations, and the logistics of pulling off the Lord’s Supper is a difficult one.  We’ve tried many different ways, and to be honest, none has worked exceedingly well.

2. It doesn’t feel intimate.  It loses its relational edge in a Sunday morning gathering environment.

3. Our services are 1 hour long.  In order to do communion “right” (giving it its proper place, explaining its significance, giving people space to process, celebrating, etc.), it takes some time.  And in a 1 hour service, either everything is rushed or various parts are cut out, neither of which is desirable.  Small groups afford much more time.

4. We don’t hold communion with great frequency.  Why not?  See above reasons.

5. We ask our small group leaders to act as shepherd leaders.  It makes great sense for them to administer this with their groups.

6. Life change is happening at the small group level.  One beautiful way of acknowledging and celebrating the change that Christ is making, and has made, in a person’s life, is through celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection (communion) together.

7. Small groups can practice communion as often as they would like.

8. The relational aspect of the Lord’s Supper can really happen in a small group environment.  In a large group setting (Sunday mornings), often the relational side of communing together just can’t happen.

Some concerns that will be brought up:

1. We’ve never done it this way before.  It’s not what we’re used to.

2. In a small group, it’s outside of the direct oversight of the church leadership/elders.

3. It could get really messy really quickly.  If you have small group leaders who don’t know what they’re doing, they could wrongly administer the Lord’s Supper. (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

4. It’s not biblical.

I’ll follow up this post with my thoughts concerning each of the above objections.

What do you think?  Is it right (and good) for small groups to administer the Lord’s Supper?  Or is a dangerous, non-biblical slope you’re not willing to go down?

 

Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Leslie Oden

    We did this for the very first time in our Spring semester of Small Groups. It was WONDERFUL! Let me preface that by saying that we are a portable church with average Sunday attendance of 300+, meeting in a 3-screen movie theatre. We have never attempted to serve the Lord's supper in our main auditorium because, well, logistically it just seemed too clumsy and difficult.

    Many times, we have held communion services at our Annex location (offices, youth & middle school services, and gathering space). That was great… when we had 125 people. The whole service was given to communion: the message, scripture, music…everything. We had a beautiful table set, candlelight in the room, worship music playing softly, etc, and it was a very intimate, meaningful remembrance. We have too many folks to make that practical now. So that brought us to the idea of offering communion in our Small Groups.

    In our group, my husband is the leader, we have group in our living room. On the evening we received communion, he taught briefly about the wine and the bread and its significance. He read from 1 Corinthians 11, then prayed for those who would receive it. I served the elements to our 14 members, broken unleavened bread on a small china plate, and juice in communion cups. It was beautiful and moving and meaningful, and I can't wait to share this experience with our group again in the Fall.

    I think the only drawback was that people who are not in small groups did not get to receive communion this time, and that made me sad. Because my husband is also the Lead Pastor, we will have the opportunity to impact this decision, and I think we will continue to encourage our small groups to have communion periodically, but we will also find a way to offer it to everyone. Would love to hear some practical ideas for communion: movie-theatre style!

    Leslie Oden

    Crossroads Community Church

    Enterprise, AL

  • Luke

    I think it is a great thing. We used to hold a small group for our Sunday church service (which is actually how the church started) and ww had communion in our group. It was great because it didn’t become a ritualistic act, but rather a time for open conversation and reflection which is how communion in the scripture happened. It was a really neat experience all around and would recomend this. If taken seriously it can be an awesome thing!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Benlreed Benlreed

    I love it, Leslie! I think we're going to give it a shot in groups soon. If I had more practical ideas for doing it on Sunday morning, I might not have even thought to do this in small groups!

  • http://twistedchristian.ca twistedxtian

    Awesome idea! Moving from a church that did did it weekly to one that tries to do it monthly, I really miss it. Our services also lack the reverence I associate with communion, so bringing it to the small group level could bring some of that reverence back. I think it could also help bring a deeper spiritual connection to the group.

    Like Leslie mentioned above, a drawback to doing communion exclusively in small groups is those not in a small group would miss out. So I'd hope communion was offered in the service as well.

    I hear the 1 Cor. 11 verses you mentioned brought up quite often as a way to discourage partaking in communion, and this is something I never understood. I don't think it is that easy to wrongly administer communion. It is pretty straight forward, believe and partake. But then I haven't heard many of the arguments using it as support to not partake, I've just heard the verse thrown around.

    I'm going to bring this idea up at church and see what people think. There is real potential here.