Paul Cho, Larry Osborne, and Sermon Based Small Groups

What’s a sermon based small group? It’s a group of believers who meet weekly to flesh out the Big Idea of the Sunday morning message. But where did this idea come from? Who is using the sermon based small group model? 

Well, I’ll be posting soon on how the scriptures provide the biblical foundation for sermon based groups. But where did they start in modern culture? Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho, Pastor of the Full Gospel Central Church in Seoul, Korea used sermon based groups. He didn’t call his groups that. He called them “cell groups.” Nevertheless, he used sermon based groups. These groups were led by women. That was a problem in Korean culture by itself. When starting his cell group ministry, he said:

I could see that she was right (that Cho had to release the women only under his authority to lead), and so that very day I began to write out my sermon notes and distribute them to the cell leaders. I called a meeting of all the leader for every Wednesday, and at the meeting I would distribute the notes and explain them, and tell the women what I wanted them to teach (Cho, Successful Home Cell Groups, 34-35). 

Cho used the lecture lab model as a matter of convenience. I’m not sure how long his church used them. I doubt they were the model they used as a model. In Korea, the church culture was drastically different than the in the West. Cho’s groups were evangelistic groups because of the communal nature of the Korean culture. Larry Osborne has a great chapter in Sticky Church called “Why Cho’s Model Didn’t Work in Your Church?” If you have not read that book, get it asap and read it comparing your disciple making process with the North Coast model. You will be challenged. Larry Osborne is an expert at using sermon based small groups.

How often have you heard a message and thought to yourself, “I wish I could get people to discuss this message so we could internalize it, be motivated in group by it, and actually do what the message challenged us to do?” People are talking about preaching. Why not help them do it in a way that’s not negative, “roast preacher” after the weekend experience? Why not start a few sermon based small groups in your church. Expand your preaching!

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One Comment on “Paul Cho, Larry Osborne, and Sermon Based Small Groups”

  1. caleb Says:

    We’ve been using sermon based small group studies for the past year and a half with pretty good success. We have 90-95% of our groups working through weekly small group studies that I produce. There are some challenges to using sermon based small group studies, namely groups wanting to do more “felt need” topics and timing of the group meetings. Many of our groups meet on Sunday and many of the groups feel that Sunday is too soon to discuss the sermon. Another challenge is making sure the message and the small group study line up with each other, there are times when the Sr. pastor and I approach a passage or topic differently. Overall though, it has been very positive to use sermon based studies.


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