Perpetual beta is an attitude. It’s the attitude that what you’re doing is in development all the time. It’s an attitude that says, “this is working good enough, this is working well for now, but we expect that we’ll figure out how to improve it.” Think Google and you’ve got the right idea. They’re always improving the product. Some companies take years to perfect the product and then release it. Google gets it good enough, releases it, and then continues to improve it.
Perpetual beta for small group ministry is a very helpful philosophy. It establishes the sense that we’re trying to become more effective. I’ve found it to be an important attitude to build into what I’m working on. Here’s how it applies:
Pick a Model and Adapt It
Some of the most important advice you’ll get about small group ministry is to pick a model and adapt it to fit your church. Since what you read in a book or hear about at a conference was developed to fit the personality of that church (whichever one that might be), it only makes sense that your church will be different in some ways. Adapting the model to fit your church will make it more likely to succeed.
Stick with the Model You Choose
Another very important key to small group ministry is to choose a model, adapt it to fit your church, and stick with it. One of the most frustrating things for leaders is the sense that every time you come back from a conference (or every time you read a new book) you change what you’re doing. A high level of uncertainty rarely gets buy-in from leaders. Consistency and momentum, the sense that we’re going somewhere together, gets buy-in.
Establish a “This Is Working Now Culture”
Choosing a model and sticking with it does not mean that it will always be the direction for your ministry. An important mark of an effective ministry is the freedom and wisdom to adjust strategy to win the next battle.
Establishing the freedom to adjust strategy is a really important concept. It may seem a little contradictory to the first two principles (choose a model and stick with it), but the freedom to adjust strategy is what allows you to seize the next opportunity. Here’s how to establish a “this is working now culture.”
- Carefully choose a model and adapt it to fit your culture.
- Think development in stages. It may take you several ministry seasons to fully implement a different model. You might think of the implementation as being a journey that has several stages (i.e., this spring and summer we recruit a launch phase coaching team, this fall we use a church-wide campaign to launch groups, this winter we select the most fruitful and fulfilled members of the launch-phase coaching team and challenge them to continue, etc.)
- As you’re casting vision about where you’re going, all along the way, be consistent in talking about how this strategy is helping you accomplish the goal that you’ve established. At the same time, be careful to never use phrases like “from now on” or “from here on out.” Instead, be consistent in saying things like, “this strategy will help us connect an additional 40% of our congregation” or “the next phase is to add community leaders to develop our coaches.”