The Power and Pitfalls of Church Small Groups – Dr Allan Meyer

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Dr Allan Meyer

“One of the things we observed was when a home group went bad, if a leader became disaffected and got a little poisonous, you would lose every person in that group,” Allan recalled.

allan helen meyer

Dr Allan and Helen Meyer

But according to Dr Allan Meyer, there’s never been a better time than to do small groups right now.

“The tools available today are so diverse that the possibilities of doing great small group ministry have never been better.”

Allan is one of the nation’s most respected church leaders on the need for appropriate leaders and training in our local churches.

‘Good leaders treasures, bad leaders poison’

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Juan Carlos Ortiz

For that purpose he founded Careforce Lifekeys and ministers in 20 countries around the world.

Dr Meyer, renown for his Valiant Man ministries, joined Neil Johnson to talk about the benefits and the pitfalls of Small Groups in church where good leaders are treasures, but a poorly trained leader can be like poison.

Allan said he’s been involved with small groups, or cell groups as many of them were called, since their introduction to church life in the 1970’s.

“I came on staff when my senior pastor was really devoted to wanting to run the church through small groups particularly through the influence of Juan Carlos Ortiz,” Allan said, saying it was Ortiz’s reflections on a revival that had taken place in Argentina taking place and the role that small groups played in discipling people.

‘When a home group went bad you would lose every person’

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Rev Hal Oxley

Allan said his pastor back in the 70’s was Hal Oxley, who happened to be a former military man, a trained officer and a trainer of people. So he took the issue of training quite seriously.

“But one of the things we observed was when a home group went bad – if a leader became disaffected and got a little poisonous, you would lose every person in that group,” Allan recalled, saying often it would be over things you couldn’t put your finger on.

“So you could see the potential for good but you could also see the potential for harm right from the very beginning,” Allan commented.

‘There’s never been a better time than right now for small groups’

Dr Allan Meyer has released a booklet designed to avoid or weed out any possible small group poison. It’s titled ‘The Small Group Leader and Facilitator Training Course’.

Alpha founder Nicky Gumbel + wife Pippa

Allan believes there’s never been a better time than right now for small groups.

“One of the reasons is that different organisations around the world have been creating really good tools for small group ministry,” Allan declared, saying there’s hardly a person who has not heard of Alpha.

“Alpha has changed the lives of more than 22 million people who are now followers of Jesus. This because they put this tool in the hands of small group leaders,” Allan informed, saying it allowed them to do the kind of ministry they couldn’t do alone.

‘The possibilities of doing great ministry have never been better’

“We’ve seen with Alpha, focus On the Family, Cleansing Streams, Life Keys, a whole range of tools that can be just brilliantly used in a home, in a small group setting, in a school.”

“Anywhere where there’s a gathering of people with a good small group leader,” Allan said, saying the tools available today are so diverse that the possibilities of doing great ministry have never been better.Related image

This gave rise to the question 20Twenty host Neil Johnson put to  Dr Allan Meyer, that, If these resources are so good, how do you make the most of those in a local church setting?

Allan’s response was to say that’s what it’s all about.

‘When it comes to human hearts and human lives, they’re delicate things’

“The reality is we make the assumption that we simply take a tool and put it in someone’s hands and they’ll handle it well.Image result for bad dentist images pics

“I would not want to go and have my teeth done just because the guy next door had been given a drill,” Allan illustrated.

“The reality is that when it comes to human hearts and human lives, they’re delicate things.”

“You can use a tool and behave inappropriately, you can allow inappropriate things to be said and done in a small group setting, not because you’re bad people but because you’ve not had any training,” Allan admitted.

‘They were just ordinary lettuce and tomato Jewish people’

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Allan Meyer caught training in the gym

Allan Meyer said the key to resolving these problems is training.

“The beautiful thing is Jesus took twelve really ordinary people. Some of them might have been quite brilliant, but by and large they were just ordinary lettuce and tomato Jewish people,” Allan said, describing their qualifications as fishermen, tax collectors or political agitators. In other words, ordinary people.

“But the Lord gave them the skills of being able to do good ministry. Then he could delegate the whole future of the Christian church into the hands of these ordinary people.”

Allan stressed that what Jesus did became the key. He trained ordinary people.

Untrained leaders – ‘before you know it they’ve damaged people’

“All too often we’ve delegated to people who had either minimal or no training. As a result, you could anticipate that problems would arise.”Related image

“Unless these are people with high levels of emotional intelligence, they can just do or say something inappropriate, and before you know it they’ve damaged people,” Allan warned, saying the people in the group are wounded, made to feel inadequate, unworthy, and sometimes just made to feel plain old unwelcome.

“Occasionally we’ve told them things that no one should ever have told them. And one of the reasons people don’t want to go to small groups is because they’re already been to one.”

“They’ve found that it wasn’t as healing, as helpful, as encouraging as they were told it would be. And it’s all simply because of inadequate training before delegation took place.”

‘Small groups are a vital necessity’

But what about people attending a home group who are not the group leaders but who are permitted just by their presence to offend others and in so doing, poison the group?

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Allan said that doesn’t discount the need for small groups emphasising they’re a vital necessity, before giving his response to accountability with a question.

“How can a full time ministry team, even if it’s a large team, ever truly help people to be accountable for their following of Jesus?’

Small groups are one of the keys to great church life’

“Pastoral care. There’s just no way you can put enough people on staff to just care pastorally for all the people in a church. Discipleship, sharing your journey and encouraging people to follow Jesus,” Allan shared, and spoke about Sunday services, how they can be inspiring, but when you walk out the door there has got to be more.Related image

Allan again stressed that small groups are one of the keys to great church life.

“I’ve just seen both sides of the coin and know that if you train people you can have all of that. But if you don’t train people well it can turn out to be quite unhelpful.” Dr Allan Meyer concluded.



Careforce Lifekeys was founded by Dr Allan Meyer and Helen Meyer during their 26 years of leadership at Careforce Church, Mt. Evelyn, Melbourne, Australia.  It comprises this Facilitator Training Program and a range of structured courses developed in their local church to address the need for restoration and discipleship.  These courses quickly proved to be effective in reaching the wider unchurched community as well.  When those who had benefited from a Lifekeys course invited friends, neighbours, family members and others to get help where they had found help themselves, people who had never considered going to a church for help in the past were able to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Other churches in the city began to take note of what was happening at Mt. Evelyn, came to learn, and successfully began to apply the ministry in their own congregations.  As a result Careforce Lifekeys came to be embraced by thousands of churches from all denominations around Australia, New Zealand and other countries around the world.

For further information go to this website:


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