The 7 Biggest Problems Facing Small Group Pastors

What are the problems you face?  I’ve been at this a long time.  I’ve pretty much seen it all.  Here’s my list:

The 7 biggest problems facing small group pastors:

  1. A senior pastor who is reluctant or ineffective as small group champion.  This may be the most under-the-radar problem facing small group pastors.  After all, a significant number of senior pastors will tell you, “We hired a small group pastor to be the small group champion!”  Do you face that problem?  Does your small group pastor?  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful and Conflicted Senior Pastor.
  2. The small group pastor position is too low on the org chart.  Building a thriving small group ministry depends on the right decisions being made at the right time.  When the most knowledgable and most passionate person is 2 or 3 rungs down from where decisions are made it is irresponsible to assume the best outcome.  Are you there?  Is your small group pastor?  See also, 5 Habits I’d Look for If I Was Hiring a Small Group Pastor.
  3. Equal status and promotion for every ministry and program.  When everything is important, nothing is important.  Churches that promote everything equally should not expect anything to thrive.  How does your menu look?  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu.
  4. Unrealistic expectations.  Churches with thriving small group ministry cultures have build them over years, even decades.  The belief that you can arrive at your preferred future, that you can move from where you are to where you want to be, in a single move or even a few moves, is unrealistic.  To cast as vision unrealistic expectations leads to idea fatigue.  See also, 5 Easily Overlooked Secrets to Building a Thriving Small Group Ministry and Wash, Rinse, Repeat and the Long Run.
  5. Acceptance of the status quo.  Remember, your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.  If you want different results, you must disrupt the status quo.  Failure to break free from the stranglehold of the status quo dooms you to remain stuck.  Is that your world?  See also, Beware the Lure of the Status Quo.
  6. Codependent catering to the usual suspects.  The easiest thing to do is to satisfy the already connected.  The wisest thing to do is to become preoccupied with the needs and interests of the right people (i.e., the still unconnected, unreached people in your crowd and community).  Who are you catering to?  See also, Preoccupied with the Needs and Interests of the right People and Design Your Connection Strategy with Unconnected People in Mind.
  7. Strategic mismatch between the small group system or model and the percentage unconnected.  This problem plagues both the small group pastor and senior pastor alike.  Falling in love with systems or models without acknowledging and even choosing the set of problems that come with them often comes back to haunt.  Have a high percentage unconnected?  Be sure you are paying attention to the number of new groups you are actually launching every year.  Problems finding enough new leaders?  Be sure you are connecting that result to the design of your system.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting People?

What do you think?   Have a question?  Have one to add?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Rick Warren: My Small Group Pulled Me Through Dark Days

I’ve written many times about the role of the senior pastor as small group champion.  I’ve also pointed you to what I believe is the real reason that Saddleback has so many in groups. Can’t see the video?  You can watch it right here. You’ll find a great collection of Saddleback small group videos on this free download page.

Steve Gladen on Aligning “Affinities” with Small Groups

Do you have gender-based ministries or programs?  For example, do you have a Beth Moore Bible study for women?  And maybe a monthly men’s breakfast and Men’s Fraternity?  How about a couples’ date night?  Singles’ events?  Do you have ministries or programs designed to minister to these affinities?

How are they organized?  Do you have a cohesive strategy?  Or do your affinity ministries really function as individual silos?

I had the opportunity today to talk with Steve Gladen, Saddleback’s small group pastor, about the way their small group ministry is structured and how they’re handling gender-based ministry.  It was a conversation I  know you’re going to want to listen in to.

Here’s my conversation with Steve Gladen

Need some background?  Here’s a very helpful article from Steve on the same topic: Aligning Affinities to Your Small Group Model

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Top 10 Articles for Senior Pastors (or Small Group Pastors Who Support Them)

Over the years I’ve emphasized the role of senior pastor as small group champion a million times.  Somehow it made sense to gather up my top 10 articles for senior pastors (or small group pastors who support them) all in one place.

Here are my top 10 articles for senior pastors:

  1. Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups
  2. 5 Things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry
  3. Note to Senior Pastors: Authentic Community Begins with You
  4. 3 Prerequisite Convictions for Senior Pastors Who Experience Authentic Community
  5. 6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the Small Group Ask
  6. The Role of the Senior Pastor
  7. Diagnosis: Senior Pastor Buy-In
  8. What Part Does Your Senior Pastor Play?
  9. Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful or Conflicted Senior Pastor
  10. Dilbert on What Not to Say to Your Senior Pastor

Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry – My New Short Course

Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry

Coming to the conclusion that you might need a new design for your small group ministry?  Concerned that there may be something (or a collection of factors) preventing you from taking your small group ministry where you need to go?

You’re Invited!

I want to invite you to join me for my new 4 session short course: Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry.  Based on my most requested and most popular workshop, it draws more positive comments and rave reviews than anything else I talk about.

Here’s what you’ll gain:

  • An accurate diagnosis of your current situation (limiting factors, barriers, untapped resources and advantages)
  • The tools that will help you identify future opportunities with the most upside.
  • Resources that help you craft a preferred future that will help your ministry move in the right direction
  • The strategies that will help you move in the direction of your preferred future and stay on course.

What’s Included:

  1. Four 75 minute sessions (60 minutes of content + 15 minutes Q&A)
  2. Downloadable outlines (allowing you to capture every detail)
  3. Each session is packed with actionable takeaways
  4. All sessions are downloadable to share with your team
  5. Password-protected site with additional supporting resources.
  6. 100% money back guarantee.  If you’re not completely satisfied…I’ll refund your money.
  7. Take advantage of my earlybird pricing at $39.95 (Regular pricing: $49.95)
  8. Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $100)
  9. Questions?  Email Me for information.

When, Where and Other Details:

  • The first session is on Thursday, September 11th at 11:00 a.m. pacific.
  • Sessions 2 thru 4 are on September 18th, September 25th and October 1st.
  • Regular pricing: $49.95
  • Take advantage of a 20% discount ($39.95) through August 31st.
  • Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $100)
  • Questions?  Email Me for information.

Registration Options (pulldown)




7 Small Group Ministry Truths I Hold to Be Self-Evident

I’ve always loved this line from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Here are 7 small group  ministry truths that I hold to be self-evident:

  1. Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again.  This is self-evident, isn’t it?  Unconnected people aren’t lining up for counseling appointments.  When a tough thing comes their way, they   Once you determine your true percentage connected, it should never stop bothering you.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting People?
  2. Whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first.  This self-evident, isn’t it?  Want group members to feel cared for?  Want them to know what it’s like to have someone praying for them personally?  Want them to have a sense of family?  You cannot expect members to experience anything their leader has not already experienced.  See also, Life-Change at the Member Level.
  3. If you want to build a thriving small group ministry your senior pastor must be the small group champion.  This is self-evident, isn’t it?  The small group champion role cannot be delegated.  The most influential person in almost every congregation must play the part…if you want to build a thriving small group ministry.  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful or Conflicted Senior Pastor and Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  4. Only the right people are legitimate candidates for the coaching role.  This is self-evident, isn’t it?  Warm and wiling candidates will not get the job done.  Hold out for hot and qualified.  Hold out for high capacity.  Hold out for fruitful and fulfilled.  Anything less is a waste of time and energy.  See also, 5 Assumptions that Set Up Small Group Coaching to #FAIL and How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  5. There are no problem-free small group systems, models or strategies.  This is self-evident, isn’t it?  And yet, the pursuit of problem-free delays more ministry than anything else!  Every small group system, model or strategy comes with a set of problems.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  See also, The Pursuit of Problem Free.
  6. Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.  This is self-evident, isn’t it?  You may want to explain away your results as a fluke.  “We did not reach our goal because of the weather.”  “It was closing weekend at the county fair.”  “Easter was late that year.”  Don’t fall for it.  Acknowledge that results are directly determined by design.  If you want different results, you must change the design.  See also, 5 GroupLife Dots You May Not Be Connecting.
  7. Pitting connecting people against making disciples is a false dichotomy.  This is self-evident, isn’t it?  You do not have to choose.  In fact, your small group strategy should be designed to make it easy to connect unconnected people and make fully devoted followers.  Anything less is an insufficient strategy.  See also, Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples? and 5 Essential Ingredients of Groups that Make Disciples.

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Becoming More: A New Study from Lysa TerKeurst

becoming moreHad an opportunity this week to preview a new study from Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times bestselling author and speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith through following Jesus Christ. As president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, Lysa has led thousands to make their walk with God an invigorating journey.

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl is a 6 session study for women that “guides participants on an incredible, tremendously rewarding journey on which they will discover how to:

  • Build personal, two-way conversations with God
  • Study the Bible and experience life-change for themselves
  • Cultivate greater authenticity and depth in their relationships
  • Make disappointments work for them, not against them
  • Find incredible joy as they live out their faith in everyday circumstances

DVD-driven, the study features Lysa TerKeurst’s easy conversational and story-telling style.  Set up with an attention grabbing personal story, a short Bible teaching lays the foundation for the sessions discussion.  With an average length of about 15 minutes, the video teaching is in the range that holds attention very well.

The participant’s guide includes a video viewing guide and a simple set of discussion questions for each session.  Providing a daily experience, the each session also includes a Between Sessions Personal Bible Study.

TerKeurst’s very popular book by the same title makes an excellent companion (and the participant’s guide provides a reading schedule).

Becoming More Than a Bible Study Girl is a straightforward study that will provide a very good next step for women’s small groups or Bible studies.  If you’re looking for a study that will help group members take spiritual next steps beyond business-as-usual, Becoming More is a study you ought to take a look at.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Questions Small Group Pastors Should Never Ask

There are certain things every small group pastor needs to know from the very beginning.  These things are only discovered by asking great questions.  See also, 5 Things Every Small Group Pastor Needs to Know on Day 1.

There are also questions that should never be asked.  For the most part, they’re just the wrong questions!  Asking them sometimes betrays a misunderstanding of success.  Other times the very fact that the question is asked indicates a misguided assumption.

Questions Small Group Pastors Should Never Ask

  1. What is the minimum percentage connected we should accept?  This is the wrong question.  Small group systems that are designed to connect 50% or 80% or even 100% of the average weekend adult attendance miss the fact that most churches have a much larger number of adults than attend on an average weekend.  See also, What Percentage of Your Adults Are Actually Connected?
  2. How can we ensure only the most qualified leader candidates end up leading groups?  Holding out for the most qualified candidates actually ensures that you’ll rarely have enough leaders (or that you’ll attain a high percentage connected).  See also, Small Group Ministry Myth #4: High Leader Requirements Ensure the Safety of the Flock.
  3. Which small group model is problem-free?  The pursuit of problem-free delays more ministry than almost anything else.  Wise leaders simply identify the problems that come with each model and choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  See also, The Pursuit of Problem-Free.
  4. How can I personally provide care for my small group leaders?  Once a small group ministry has more than 5 to 10 groups this is the wrong question.  In order to avoid violating span of care constraints, an appropriate coaching structure needs to be built.  This allows the small group pastor to care for coaches and coaches to provide care for leaders.  See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  5. What is the best way to place new members in existing groups?  Wrong question every time.  The best practice is to train your existing leaders to fish for new members while focusing your attention on launching new groups.  See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs. Start New Groups and Skill Training: Top 10 Ways to Find New Group Members.

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Quotebook: Protecting the New

I have said for many years that I want my title to be “Disruptor of the Status Quo.”  If you know me…you know how perfect that would be.  And it would make perfect sense that my copy of Ed Catmull’s Creativity Inc. is one marked up, underlined, bookmarked and starred book (except that my copy is on my phone using the Kindle app).

One of the ideas that grabbed my attention by the throat was the practice at Pixar of providing protection for new ideas.  Think about how critical it might be to protect new ideas where you work.  This is a quote worth writing out on a post-it and keeping where you can’t miss it:

“Whether it’s the kernel of a movie idea or a fledgling internship program, the new needs protection.  Business-as-usual does not.  Managers do not need to work hard to protect established ideas or ways of doing business.  The system is tilted to favor the incumbent.  The challenger needs support to find its footing.  And protection of the new–of the future, not the past–must be a conscious effort.”  Ed Catmull, Creativity Inc.

See also, The Futility of the Mainstream, Beware the Lure of the Status Quo and Purpose or Pain: Two Antidotes for the Status Quo.

7 Powerful Benefits of a Church-Wide Campaign

I’ve written in the past about the exponential power of a church-wide campaign.  I know of no other strategy that provides the game-changing and trajectory-shifting potential of a well-timed and well-executed church-wide campaign.

There are at least 7 powerful benefits:

  1. Spiritual growth.  The powerful combination of a weekend message series, a small group study, daily devotionals, memory verses, and a number of other ingredients enables exponential growth.  A concentrated dose on the right topic will often result in a life-changing trajectory shift.  See also, Essential Ingredients for Life-Change.
  2. One conversation.  When a church-wide campaign is truly a church-wide campaign (i.e., when there are resources for adults, teens and children), there can be one conversation around the dinner table.  Think about the power of every member of the family and everyone in the congregation talking about the same thing for 6 weeks.  See also, How to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign,
  3. Congregational focus.  Church-wide campaigns can fan into flame new vision and new focus.  Far beyond the impact of a message series alone, the right elements can focus conversations and alter perspectives.
  4. New groups.  No other strategy even comes close to the new group launching potential of a church-wide campaign.  A senior pastor’s encouragement to “attend a worship service and join a 6 week small group that is using the study that goes along with what I’m teaching” is a powerful incentive.  See also, Top 5 Advantages of New Small Groups.
  5. Additional leaders.  With the right strategy it is very possible to identify the additional leaders your congregation needs in order to take your ministry to the next level.  Doing what you’ve always done will get you what’s you’ve always gotten.  If you want to break through barriers you will need more leaders and the best way to discover additional leaders is with a church-wide campaign.  See also, 5 Keys to Finding More Leaders.
  6. Momentum.  They say the hardest car to steer is a parked car.  A well-executed church-wide campaign can energize your congregation and help build momentum.
  7. Community outreach.  Your church-wide campaign topic determines two things: (a) who will say “yes” to hosting a small group and (b) who will say “yes” to attending a small group.  Choose a topic that appeals cross-culturally and your congregation will find it easy to invite friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members.  See also, The Easy/Hard Continuum and The Latest on Church-Wide Campaigns (2014).

What do you think?  Have a question? Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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