In some ways, small group ministry is like a puzzle. A big puzzle with lots and lots of pieces.
And in other ways, it is really so simple. It’s not complicated. Sure, there are some things that are easy and obvious. And there are other things that might require a coach. Someone who has been there before.
There are some things I just wish everyone knew as they build their small group ministry. And believe me, the word “as” is an important word. A very important word.
You see, some things are so important they must be done concurrently. You can’t really build a thriving small group ministry in a growing church (or in a catch a moving train scenario) if you try to do it one step at a time.
5 things I wish you knew:
- You must build your coaching structure as you’re launching groups. If you believe what I do about unconnected people, you will spot this imperative right away. You will know you don’t have time to build a coaching structure first. You will also know that you can’t expect to sustain the new groups you launch if you aren’t building an effective coaching structure. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. See also, 5 Obstacles to Building an Effective Coaching Structure.
- You must focus on launching new groups as you are training leaders to fish for new members. If you want to build a thriving small group ministry you must focus on launching new groups. If you want to build a thriving small group ministry you must help existing small groups learn to fish for new members (rather than relying on you to send them new members). Existing leaders will always want to be prioritized. Catering to the weakest is a losing proposition. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs. Launching New Groups.
- You must work hard to sustain new groups as you’re prioritizing new groups. Related to the previous thing I wish you knew, this is slightly different. Launching new groups must be your priority but working hard to sustain as many of your newest groups as possible is an essential activity. It is not a nice extra. Launching new groups, whether via a church-wide campaign, small group connection, or short-term on-campus strategy, takes a lot of energy. Anytime this much energy is expended, you must capitalize. To launch new groups without a well-thought-out, detailed plan to sustain as many new groups as possible is to waste energy. See also, 5 Steps to Sustaining the New Groups You Launch.
- You must position your senior pastor as small group champion as you become a behind-the-scenes strategist. You may believe you are the best on your staff team at casting vision for community. You may actually be the best on your staff team at casting vision for community. It doesn’t matter. The most influential person in almost every church is the senior pastor. Exceptions are very, very, rare. If you want to build a thriving small group ministry you must leverage the influence of the most influential person in the church. And you must own the behind-the-scenes “strategery.” If you’re not yet a great strategist, become one. Read the best books and blogs. Listen to the right podcasts. Go to the right conferences. Network with the smartest people. Building a thriving small group ministry requires leveraging the most influential person and becoming a shrewd strategist. See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
- You must focus on making disciples as you connect connect unconnected people. Never let anyone tell you this is an either/or proposition. Anyone who suggests this is an either/or needs to re-read the Gospels. The only worthwhile small group systems, models or strategies make disciples as they connect unconnected people. Almost everyone who suggests making disciples requires a separate program for disciple-making is hoping to sell you something. See also, 5 Keys to Building a Small Group Ministry at the Corner of “Belonging” and “Becoming”.
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Image by Cliff