Early Methodist gatherings were called 'societies'. John Wesley encouraged different kinds of small group to develop, so that both leaders and members of the societies could receive support and challenge in their faith.

These groups, called 'classes' and 'bands' met regularly, and the idea was to be accountable to each other about how each person was living the Christian life. So people had to be very open and willing to be changed by the experience.

In the twentieth century it became less common for classes to meet in this way, but recently many Methodists have been trying to reclaim this tradition.

The supportive small group has been found to be one of the most powerful ways for people to feel that they belong and to learn and grow.

Many Methodist churches have home fellowships, Bible studies and house groups. Increasingly they are seeking in various ways to renew and expand the opportunities for Christian conversation about the things that matter.

You can download a leaflet called Resurrecting the Classes here. Resurrecting the Classes explores the tradition of small groups in Methodist history, explains how they connect with the more recent development of cell church and gives lots of practical advice about doing small groups well.

Some churches have been re-thinking the whole way their church is structured, and have put small groups at the centre, through Cell Church. See www.celluk.org.uk