10 of the Most Overused Small Group Ministry Buzzwords

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Ever heard someone use a word or a phrase and there was something about the way they said it that made you realize...they didn't know what it meant?  I remember when a friend of mine kept talking about the long tail (a business term) and ecosystem (or some other buzzword, I don't remember) and it was so obvious to everyone else that he had no clue what either of the words actually meant!  To use a now ancient buzzword...it was emperor's new clothes obvious.

Think there are buzzwords that we use and sometimes don't actually know what they mean? Or sometimes use in a way that is significantly different than everyone else? I think there's more than you might think!

Here are 10 of the most overused small group ministry buzzwords:

1. Disciples who make disciples.

This actually might be the most overused small group ministry buzzword right now. Not because it's pretentious or anything. Mostly because you're probably not actually a disciple if you're not making disciples.

2. Spiritual formation.

If it's complicated...it's probably not legit. I like what Dallas Willard said in Renovation of the Heart“Spiritual formation...is the process by which the human spirit or will is given a definite form or character. It is a process that happens to everyone. The most despicable as well as the most admirable of persons have had a spiritual formation. Terrorists as well as saints are the outcome of a spiritual formation. Their spirits or hearts have been formed. Period.”  Thank you Dallas. See also, What Have You Designed Your Groups to Make.

3. Life-change.

As in, "the optimal environment for life-change is a small group." I don't know about you, but I've run across more than a few groups where there is very little change of any kind going on.  It is to be desired and designed into every group. See also, Skill Training: Design Your Group Meeting for Life-Change and 10 Ideas that Have Shaped My Philosophy of Ministry.

4. Doing life together.

Love the term. Hate the idea that to some it actually means 7 to 9 p.m. on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays. That's not it. See also, The End in Mind for My Ideal Small Group.

5. Free market groups.

This term refers to a very specific strategy described in the book Dog Training, Fly Fishing and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century. It gets used incorrectly lots of other ways to lump in just about everything.

6. Missional communities.

Again, this term refers very specifically to a very well defined strategy promoted by Mike Breen, 3DM, and others. It isn't just that you have a group of 25 instead of 12 or that your group periodically meets in a 3rd place like Starbucks.

7. Authentic community.

Okay...there is only authentic community. Everything else is counterfeit or pseudo community. See also, 4 Countercultural Characteristics of Authentic Community.

8. Lower the bar/Raise the bar.

Maybe this is my issue alone, but the point is to make it easy to begin and nearly automatic that leader development happens.

9. Small group champion.

When this term is used to describe anyone other than your senior pastor it isn't necessarily incorrect, it's just less powerful. See also, 5 Things Every Small Group Pastor Needs to Know on Day 1.

10. Healthy span of care.

I use this term almost every day and then almost always work my way through the Exodus 18 passage the concept is based on. It is essentially the idea that everyone needs to be cared for by someone but no one can care for more than about 10.  A healthy span of care fits that definition, but every care structure has its own nuance.  See also, Span of Care.

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

Image by Gavin Llewellyn

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  1. Nick Schonlau on July 23, 2014 at 6:50 am

    Good reminder. I’ll admit, I am guilty on a couple of these. It seems we lag a little behind the trend most days, so maybe its not so bad.

  2. markchowell on July 23, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    That’s the spirit Nick! Just watch out because a year or so down the line you’ll be using the other 8! Ha!


  3. Michael C. Mack on August 23, 2016 at 11:10 am

    You might be overreaching on a few of these. I think we (or at least I) use terms such as disciples who make disciples, authentic community, and missional communities to describe something that is unfortunately not naturally occurring in many groups. The adjectives may be a reaction to the years and years that many church groupings were not missional, authentic, or disciple making. My prayer is that we can get rid of the adjectives when they are no longer necessary to communicate what the real thing looks like.

  4. markchowell on August 23, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks Mike, I join you in the same prayer, but the point I’m making is that there really aren’t disciples who don’t make disciples, authentic community is the only real community and community that is truly missional isn’t necessarily a certain size.