Small groups were usually seen as social gatherings over coffee and an array of desserts, with a sprinkling of discussion around a pertinent topic or book of the Bible.
But I've been part of a new small group over the past three years where there is intense discussion around Sunday's sermon (with questions provided by the church staff based on the sermon) and intimate accountability in men-only and women-only segments.
The small group generally meets three out of four weeks. We have 12 men and women in our group, generally consisting of 20-year-olds, 40-year-olds, and 60-year-olds.
The first hour is devoted to last Sunday's sermon, and that sermon contains sufficient 'meat' with pertinent questions to fill the hour and to apply the message to our personal lives.
The group divides into men and women for the second hour, meeting in two separate rooms. That is where the accountability happens: how is your prayer life? how is your Bible reading? are you dealing with issues of 'purity'—generally pornography? what's happening in your life that requires the group's prayer? what have you been reading lately? It's all concluded with prayer time.
The accountability continues throughout the week via email, or meeting over coffee.
It's discipleship. It's small group ministry the way it is meant to be. It's where spiritual growth happens.