Here are 5 Terrible Small Group Ministry Ideas to Avoid at ALL Costs
Waiting until next year. This is a truly terrible idea! Every year, every ministry season is a gift from God. Waiting until next year is what the third servant did in Matthew 25! We can provide all kinds of rationales:
- Waiting will give us more time to prepare
- We’ll be better trained
- Our foundation will be stronger
When we wait until next year we assume that unconnected people will still be around. They won’t! Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again. When we wait until next year we assume we will have discovered a problem-free solution or strategy. We won’t! The pursuit of problem-free delays more ministry than anything else. See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting People? and The Pursuit of Problem-Free.
Providing life-support for dying groups. You may have never thought about this. You may be such a warm hearted person that you’d never even think about letting a group die. But if you’re the kind of small group pastor who will do anything to help prop up a dying group (i.e., send them another couple or two)…you need to know that this is a terrible idea!
If you want to build a thriving small group ministry, you must focus on starting new groups. It may seem like the kind thing to do to “help” a dwindling group add another couple or two, but the truth is nearly every time you do that it comes at the expense of starting a new group. See also, 5 Simple Small Group Ministry Moves with Exponential Payoffs and 5 Assumptions that Stunt Small Group Ministry Growth.
Matchmaking. If you’re still taking sign-ups to be in a small group and then doing a homemade version of eHarmony to find just the right group for them based on the day of the week, life-stage of the members, part of town they live in and the extracurricular activities of their kids…that is a terrible idea!
I stopped taking sign-ups to be in a group when I had two powerful realizations:
- Motivation to join a group is a very fleeting thing (and ends just about the moment they hand you their form).
- A kind of Murphy’s Law exists that virtually guarantees that the person that fills out the form is almost never the person who answers the phone when a leader calls. (i.e., “Who is this? I didn’t sign up for a couples group! Stop calling!).
Unless you are overstaffed and have fewer than about 10 groups, you need to stop taking sign-ups to be in a group and focus on strategies that start new groups or automate the process (for example, with a groupfinder like ChurchTeams). See also, Top 10 Articles on Launching New Groups and 4 GroupLife Urban Legends that May Be Killing Your Ministry.
Settling for warm and willing. When you are recruiting coaches for your small group ministry, settling for warm and willing instead of holding out for hot and qualified is always a terrible idea! Whether you’re just working to provide the right span of care or you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, settling for warm and willing always cripples your coaching structure.
Far better to set your sights on hundred-fold, high capacity leaders of leaders and never settle. It is far easier to get someone into a job than out of a job. Why waste time and energy on the wrong person? See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure and Imagine If Your Coaching Structure Looked Like This?
Impersonating a champion. Encouraging or allowing anyone other than your senior pastor to play the role of small group champion is a crime and an extremely terrible idea! Whether you serve with a senior pastor who desperately wants to delegate the role or you’ve been operating under the assumption that you’re not earning your keep if you’re not the champion…you cannot build a thriving small group ministry if you allow that to happen!
The most influential person in your congregation is almost always (99.99% of the time) your senior pastor. When they speak, people listen. When they ask, people respond. If you want to build a thriving small group ministry with more adults in groups than attend your weekend worship service, insist on the right person playing the role of champion. See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
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Image by Robert Terrell