Back in 2011 I wrote about what I felt were the current trends in small group ministry. It’s been over 4 years and definitely time to update the list of current trends. As you’ll see, some of the trends have continued to strengthen while others are emerging. I should point out that just because a trend is gaining strength does not necessarily indicate that it is the best way to accomplish the goal.
5 Important Trends in Small Group Ministry
Here are what I believe are 5 of the most important trends in small group ministry:
- Intentional discipleship groups, clusters, and triads. Books such as Transformational Discipleship by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley, and Philip Nation along with Jim Putman’s Discipleshift and Robby Gallaty’s Growing Up have strengthened the trend of churches focusing on discipleship as a separate endeavor, at times competing with small group ministry. See also, Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples?
- Church-wide campaigns remain a strong trend with Saddleback leading the way with an annual spiritual growth emphasis. Along with a number of off-the-shelf campaigns developed in churches like Lifechurch.tv, Cross Point and Woodlands Church, a growing number of churches are developing their own curriculum using services like Lifetogether and LifeWay’s SmallGroup.com. See also, 7 Powerful Benefits of a Church-Wide Campaign.
- “If you have a couple friends…you can start your own group.” Whether a strategy within a church-wide campaign strategy or just another angle for starting new groups, the change in thinking from groups of ten to groups of a few friends is a very important trend in small group ministry. It may seem to be an asterisk, but I believe it is the most significant reason that Saddleback had over 8400 groups meeting during their Transformed campaign. See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.
- In what may lead to a group, building intentional relationships with neighbors, friends, co-workers and family and using a home (or even a third place like a coffee shop) as a hub is a strong trend. Proposed in books like The Next Christians, “come over to hang out” is becoming a much easier invitation than “come with me to church.” This trend becomes more and more important as we slip further into the 21st Century. See also, 5 New Assumptions as I Step Further into the 21st Century.
- Churches like Willow Creek and Cherry Hills Community Church are using a section leader strategy to build mid-size community environments right where people sit during the weekend service. Banking on a team of high capacity part-time staff (10 hour a week employees), the essence of the strategy is for the section leader to “own a section” of the auditorium, helping regular attendees begin to feel known. “You get the best of the small church feel—you walk in, people start knowing your name, they’re saving you seats, shaking hands, you’re doing a potluck once a month or so. You feel known. You don’t have to be best friends though. You can build relationships at the acquaintance level. Then over the course of time, you’ve got a set of acquaintances and from there, we equip you to form small groups (from Mid-Size Strategy at Cherry Hills).”
Have you picked up on a trend I’m missing? What are you seeing that might be significant? Use the comment section to add your two cents.You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Image by Patrick Denker