First, senior pastors need to know that they are the most important champion of small group ministry. If they want grouplife to happen, if they want to be a church OF groups, they must accept this role. They might hope to delegate the role…but they can’t. It’s not about humility. It’s all about influence.
As I’ve said before, your senior pastor as champion leads to a church OF groups. There is no better example of this principle than Rick Warren and Saddleback Church. It is the real reason Saddleback connects so many in groups.
Second, senior pastors need to know that grouplife as a priority is caught…not taught. In other words, no one is really too busy to make this commitment. What’s vitally important at the member level is equally vital at the senior leadership level. You cannot hope to truly connect beyond the usual suspects without the full engagement and participation of your senior pastor.
At the same time, senior pastors should know that there is great flexibility and freedom on the makeup of the specific group of which they are a member. I’ve seen numerous instances where senior pastors have been part of long-standing closed groups with members specifically chosen for their trustworthiness and character. I’ve also seen senior pastors build open groups right in their own neighborhoods. The key is participation.
Third, senior pastors need to know that commitment to small group ministry is a year-round sport. It is not three weeks in the fall and a mention in January. It is week in, week out, full-on engagement. It is one of the top 10 reasons Saddleback has connected beyond 130% in groups. This is a huge challenge in a church with a cafeteria approach where every ministry expects their 15 minutes. It is much more likely where there is a plated-meal approach.
Fourth, senior pastors need to know that small group ministry can be the delivery system for every other thing that must be done. Want to build mission into the life of every believer? The most productive path is to build mission engagement into every small group. Want to build ministry participation into the life of every believer? Build it into grouplife.
Fifth, senior pastors need to know that the optimum environment for life-change is a small group. It’s not the weekend service. As important as the weekend service is, with inspirational music and powerful messages, it is most like a defibrillator. Only life-on-life can provide the ingredients of life-change. Without a genuine conviction about the optimum environment, there cannot be the kind of emphasis that builds a church OF groups.
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Image by Tommy Ellis