3 Surprisingly Simple Solutions to Big Small Group Ministry Problems
Sometimes in life (and ministry) you trip across a solution to a problem and it truly is a Eureka! moment. You know what I’m talking about?
And I guess the longer you work at something, the longer you are kind of stuck, the more amazing the moment is when you discover a surprisingly simple solution to a big problem.
Here are some surprisingly simple solutions to big small group ministry problems.
Big Problem #1: Can’t find enough small group leaders.
This is a big problem for many small group ministries. Apprenticing rarely produces new leaders fast enough to meet the need. Tapping shoulders and individually inviting/challenging potential leaders relies on increasingly limited knowledge of who’s got potential. Planning and holding new leader training sessions produces mixed results with a few graduates who will easily succeed, a number of others who might succeed, and a few who clearly won’t.
What’s the solution?
Surprisingly simple solution: Hold events designed to help groups identify their own leader (from amongst themselves).
The small group connection strategy relies on two key ingredients:
- Natural human ability to quickly recognize potential. If you’re familiar with the premise of Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, people can accurately assess other people very quickly. In my experience, adults can easily identify the relative shepherd after a 45 minute conversation.
- Skillful addition of spiritual guidance to fine-tune leader selection. The small group connection strategy does an excellent job of clarifying for a group who they ought to choose. All the facilitator has to do is help the group understand the qualities of the right leader.
See also, Design a System that Identifies Potential Leaders.
Big Problem #2: Can’t find people with the right stuff to be effective small group coaches.
This is a BIG problem. And it’s a problem almost everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten emails or comments here on the blog about the difficulty of finding the right people to serve as coaches. I’m sure most people just give up and abandon the idea altogether.
Surprisingly simple solution: Implement a “test-drive.”
This really was a Eureka! moment for me. How simple! I simply combined my growing awareness of how to identify a potential coach with a simple strategy that leveraged a reasonable favor. Once I combined those two things, the big problem disappeared! An amazingly simple solution.
Now, you do need to know how to identify a potential coach. There’s no substitute for that. And you need to know how to correctly and skillfully ask the right person for the right favor. But once you have those two things down, you too will be amazed at how simple this solution really is.
See also, Skill Training: How to Identify a Potential Coach and Skill Training: How to Recruit a Potential Coach.
Big Problem #3: Can’t persuade unconnected people to join a small group.
This also is a big problem in most churches. You know your congregation need to be connected in groups. You believe it is the optimal environment for life-change.
And despite your knowledge of what they need, you can’t persuade them to join a group. It’s actually like they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
Can I add the horse-sense add-on phrase? “Unless you put salt in his oats.”
Surprisingly simple solution: Plan on-campus “studies” that lead to off-campus groups.
This is another really surprisingly simple solution. It helps to think about the big problem this way:
Unconnected people are mostly comfortable sitting in rows in the auditorium. Many of them have a longing to belong and to be known, but they don’t connect that longing with joining a small group. After all, who wants to go over to a stranger’s house!
How do you “salt their oats”? The surprisingly simple solution? Simply plan an occasional 6 week on-campus study on an attractive topic for each affinity you need to connect.
- Do NOT call it a small group study.
- Pick the right topic.
- Hold the study at a convenient time.
- Offer childcare where necessary.
- Seat attendees by affinity around tables.
- Let attendees experience the beginnings of being known and belonging for 4 or 5 weeks.
- Encourage everyone to consider continuing to meet off-campus if they are enjoying the group.
- Provide a great follow-up study for groups that want to continue.
See also, Take Advantage of This Short-Term On-Campus Strategy
Image by Susan Smith