A small group is a "community" of people connected to each other through a ministry, such as, care groups, hula, prayer, men's and women's, etc. "They are a subject of conferences and workshops in the Christian world. There is intense focus on getting them to work successfully for the health of a Church. They cannot be looked at as nice adjuncts to the Body, but are vitally important, especially for new believers and Christians without family who are born again. We all need a working support network, and that support goes both ways. The Church needs its helpers. We are failing when we depend upon paid staff for the majority of ministry work.
The church I am a part of is not presently functioning in this area to full capacity. What I mean is, some of the small groups may be working as intended, but not all of them. Significant numbers of the congregation are falling through the cracks - sheep wandering around if you will. I know the feeling personally, having so far volunteered or attempted to be part of, two different ministries, only to discover they either don't meet at all or fail to pull in their volunteers for service. Not even a call back after signing up. I'm sure I need to try, try again. But, then, I am a mature Christian. I have saved family and friends. The worry here is for those who don't, and may give up after one or two attempts.
In the past, when people would tell me they felt lost in a large church, I would assure them, "Just plug into one of the ministry groups and you'll feel differently." That was the situation when we were attending several years ago. Then we left to help with a church plant, and returned last August. New people in leadership positions have different ways of doing things - change happens - and I can no longer give anyone that old assurance of just plugging into a small group. Try joining maybe three or four or more until you find one that works, would be the new recommendation.
This has caused me to prayerfully consider the whole process, how it works in a church, who is the responsible party or parties, what is my role, and how I might be a help in the situation. Dare I say though, the buck has to stop with leadership, in each individual ministry, and in those overseeing. It is a leaders' responsibility to see that individuals are the priority, and not just particular goals, or numbers, performances or product - to realize that what God sees as most important are His people. There are resources out there for leaders. Still, overall, the Senior Pastor is responsible for how the whole Church system is working to achieve community and discipleship - individual, personal relationships with God and the family of believers, and their growth as mature Christians.
A "small group" or ministry should actually meet together occasionally, pray together, even eat together once in awhile. "Brainstorming" is good, talking over goals and ideas. Practicing a skill or learning new ones, if applicable. Is this too much to ask? I believe God wants to use us all in this Body of Christ, to which we are joined as family, and that he gives gifts useful to the functioning of the whole. The Pastor, as a good shepherd of his flock, locates the best spots for his sheep. He sees that they are not only fed, but can grow to maturity.