What are small Christian communities?
Small Christian communities, or SCCs, are groups of generally no more than 15 people who gather regularly to study Scripture, pray, discern, and dialogue together in more intimate settings than normally afforded at the parish level. SCCs take as their model early forms of church life in which members assembled locally to read or listen to Scripture and articulate how it applied to both their personal situations and to the developing vision of Christian mission. Some version of the SCC has likely been present in all eras of church history, but the practice was more formally refounded in the years following the Second Vatican Council, particularly within Latin American and African countries. From SCCs and Base Ecclesial Communities (BECs) in these countries, we learn the essential relationship between gospel reflection and direct action in our lives, church, and society.
Why are small Christian communities important for the church today?
Pope Francis has stated that the church of the future “will become smaller, lose many privileges, be humbler and more authentic and find energy for what is essential.” Francis’s former counterpart in the Christian East, Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch, expressed a vision for “a church dispersed like salt, seeking its identity in its vocation.” And the Catholic philosopher Gabriel Marcel once foresaw “small communities coming together like swarms one after the other to form what we might call centres of example.” SCCs serve as “training grounds” to inaugurate this church of the future—one that is, in Francis’s words, “more spiritual, poorer and less political; a Church of the little ones.”
How can I join a small Christian community?
In 2022, Today’s American Catholic launched an initiative to advance the work of small Christian communities. As part of this initiative, we are hosting online SCC gatherings via Zoom. While these are not a substitute for in-person gatherings, they offer participants opportunities for faith-sharing, dialogue, and study that might not be otherwise available. If you are interested in joining one of our emerging SCC groups, please get in touch using the contact form below. We are also happy to share resources and guidance with those interested in starting their own SCC, either in their own location or through our online platform. We have established this page as a home for all of our SCC-related resources. Mikroi (μικρός) is a key term in Matthew’s gospel that means “little ones” or “the least of these.”
Opportunities to Join
If you are interested in joining a SCC or are inspired to form a new group of your own, please feel free to get in touch.
Prayer and Practice
- Small Church Community Guidebook
- The Best of Quest, a lectionary-based resource for use by small Christian communities originally produced by the Pastoral Department for Small Christian Communities of the Archdiocese of Hartford ( Year A | Year C )
- Ponder, a lectionary-based contemplative Bible study from Little Rock Scripture Study/Liturgical Press
- “We Create the Path by Walking: Online Spiritual Retreat for Young Adult Seekers”
- Building the Church as Family of God: Evaluation of Small Christian Communities in Eastern Africa by Joseph G. Healey
- Small Christian Communities: Fresh Stimulus for a Forward-looking Church, ed. Kläus Kramer and Klaus Vellguth
- “Parish and Small Church Communities,” by Robert K. Moriarity
- “Religion and Revolution: The Role of Christian Base Communities in Community Organizing,” by Jason Baek
- “Small Christian Communities as a New Way of Becoming Church: Practice, Progress and Prospects,” by Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator
- “Theology of the Small Church,” by Rob McRay
- Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA)
- Call to Action (CTA) Local Chapters
- Diocese of St. Petersburg (FL) Small Christian Community Resources
- National Alliance of Parishes Restructuring into Communities (NAPRC)
- North American Forum for Small Christian Communities (NAFSCC)
- Root & Branch Synod’s Do-It-Yourself (“DIY”) Initiative
- Small Christian Communities Global Collaborative Website
Colleges and Universities
- The Pastoral Studies program at Loyola Institute for Ministry (LIM) offers a special focus area on small Christian communities, featuring courses on both the inner life and the public life of SCCs. Additional SCC-related resources, including databases, ebooks, and websites, are available at the LIM library website here.
- The Catholic Campus Ministry Association (CCMA) is a national, professional organization for Catholic campus ministers serving at Catholic and non-Catholic colleges and universities.
- God’s Quad: Small Faith Communities on Campus and Beyond (Orbis Books, 2018) is a collection of case studies drawn from five different continents focused on creating and maintaining Christian communities for young adults, both within and beyond academic settings.
- Catholic Campus Ministry: Fifteen Profiles in Achievement (2020) highlights exemplary campus ministry and community-building programs from across the US.