Seminars target small group ministry

By Johanna Willett | Feb 6, 2024

Eddy Pearson (right) speaks with Pastor John Guillott and volunteer small group leaders from Green Valley Baptist Church at a Groups Matter seminar in Tucson on Jan. 22.

Discipleship happens in groups.

And that’s why Pastor John Guillott thought it was worthwhile to bring several of his small group leaders to the Groups Matter Seminar in Tucson on Monday, Jan. 22.

“Small groups are a great way to really begin to help people dig deeper and learn discipleship and learn from each other and encourage one another,” said Guillott, pastor of Green Valley Baptist Church, which is about 30 minutes south of Tucson.

The seminar, led by Ken Braddy, director of groups ministry at Lifeway Christian Resources, offered pastors and ministry leaders in Tucson and Tempe training in starting new small groups, equipping leaders and encouraging group-based discipleship.

At the Groups Matter Seminar in Tucson, church leaders discussed how small group participation often leads to greater engagement in other areas of church life.

Research offered during the seminar asserted that people connected to a group are more likely to grow spiritually, serve, share their faith and give of their finances, among other qualities.
The seminar was presented by Lifeway and the Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists.

Registrations by 29 churches across the state brought 45 church leaders to the seminars at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Tucson on Jan. 22 and at Citypoint Church in Tempe on Jan. 23. A few church leaders drove more than three hours to attend, said Eddy Pearson, the network’s evangelism discipleship facilitator.

“It’s one thing to gather corporately, and we need to do that, but there’s something special about being seen and heard and loved in close relationships,” said Jeff Vanderford, lead pastor at Authentic Life Church in Tucson.

Vanderford, like Guillott, attended the Tucson seminar. He particularly appreciated the material on enlisting new group leaders.

“Nine years ago, we planted the church and had life group leaders ready to go,” Vanderford said. “But where we’re at right now with the church growing and more people needing to be in groups, we’re at the point where we need to get ahead of it again.”

Tucson church leaders participate in a seminar about the importance of small groups in at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Tucson on Jan. 22.

In enlisting group leaders, the seminar emphasized the importance of prayer — even praying for new leaders before a need arises, Vanderford said.

Guillott, who is also the associational mission strategist for Catalina Baptist Association, said his group of leaders carpooled to and from the seminar so they could debrief at its conclusion. All said they took away fresh ideas about how to better lead their small groups.

“I see this as a valuable resource provided by our state (network),” Guillott said about seminars such as Groups Matter. “I think having someone with a different perspective come in helps us get outside our own comfort zone.”

Johanna Willett, a freelance writer living in Tucson, is a member of Mountain View Baptist Church, Tucson.

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