We are so often consumed with the power of large institutions that we neglect the power of small groups. For many years sociologists have extolled the importance of the primary group – the nearest we come to a face-to-face collective – with the family as its most ubiquitous model. Many institutions were originally given birth by small groups – the early Christian church and its many subsequent forms from the religious orders to Methodism – being just one example.
However, it would be simplistic to believe that the small group was the epitome of everything good and the institution of everything evil. Small can be beautiful – it can also be ugly. Over the years small groups have been the seed bed for the emergence of hugely destructive movements – from the Ku Klux Klan to ISIS – which have revealed humanity at its worst. Small groups can be authoritarian, closed and grossly inhuman. Thus, like all social collectives, they need to be transformed by the kingdom community’s gifts of life, liberation, love and learning, if they are to contribute to the creation of a communal world.