Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, EdD; Lori L. Low, PhD; Taylor A. McKenzie, PhD


Christianity, community, mega churches, religion, sermons, small group discussions, southern California


During the last century, Americans have become increasingly isolated from one another, resulting in feelings of loneliness and creating a void of community (Frazee, 2001). However, as attendance at mainline churches continues to decline (Stafford, 1998), attendance and participation in mega-churches, defined as those serving more than 2,500 individuals and offering a multiplicity of services, continues to increase ( ). One popular explanation for this phenomenon is that mega-churches are often characterized by an organized small group ministry---something absent in more traditional churches. Although this trend has clearly swept the nation (Gladwell, 2005), related research on the efficacy of the small group structure has not. To test the power of participation in Christian small group discussions, this dissertation examined the extent to which biblical knowledge retention was influenced by participation in small groups at a Southern California mega-church. Using the biblical definition of small groups, which is described as "people gathered together to study the Bible, pray, and socialize," (Acts 2:42) this quasi-experimental design used multiple regression analysis to compare biblical knowledge retention from the previous week's sermon among two groups of participants: those who discussed the sermon in small groups and those who did not. In addition to group discussion, measures of individual and group demographics such as gender, race/ethnicity, and educational background were also used to explain variation in the weekly quiz scores. Results suggest that the two most significant effects on sermon retention were the ages of the various group members and whether or not individuals had attended the previous group meeting. Specifically, people who participated in mixed-age groups scored an average of 8% higher on weekly quizzes than those from similar age groups (p=.00). Furthermore, if an individual attended the group meeting the prior week, regardless of what the group discussed, the average quiz score was 6% higher than those who did not attend (p=.01). Finally, the open-ended data strongly indicated that people attend small groups desiring biblical study. The results of this study may aid church leaders and perhaps educators who utilize discussion as a pedagogical tool.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access