In the same way that you have a unique fingerprint…so does your church. You may have “borrowed” the mission statement from another church, but when you look under the hood you’re not the same. You are unique. You’re made unique by the custom combination of passions, gifts and abilities of your members. You’re made unique by your setting. You’re made unique by your history.
Makes sense, right? You may not like who you are, your fingerprint. And you may even be trying to change who you are. You may want to be a whole different church. But you still need to understand who you are and who you want to become and then choose a group life strategy that fits. Easier said than done, right? Let’s talk about four keys to keep in mind.
- Clarify what a win will be for your groups ministry. What are you going to call success? If groups will play a primary role in making disciples it would be fair to ask, “What percentage of our members and attendees need to be involved in a group?” Another very good question would be, “What kinds of Christ followers do we want to produce?” “What would they be like?” Still another might be, “Do we want groups to be an entry point for non-members?” Or, “Will our groups be for our members and attendees only?” In other words, “Do you have to be a member to attend a group?”
- The next step in the process is to set aside some time to think about who your real customer is (or will be). This is an important step that is often missed. Keep in mind that in this case a customer is not just the people who are already part of a group. You’ll also need to think about the people who are not yet in a group. Their interests and needs will be a clue that will help you figure out what it may take to invite them to try a group. My discussion on the Easy/Hard Continuum will help you with this. It is often helpful to actually come up with a picture of a typical small group prospect. Developing an accurate understanding of your customer is a key step.
- Next, you’ll need to think about and then plan the steps that will lead to the win that you identify. For example, determining that you want 100% of your adults to be involved in a group will require a series of steps that will make that possible. Depending on the percentage of your adults that are unconnected, you may be able to need to choose a strategy that can move slowly. If you’re growing and you have a lot of unconnected adults, you may need a strategy that will enable you to start a lot of new groups all at once. What Is The Best Way to Launch Groups? might give you some ideas. The key is to be very practical, bring in some nuts-and-bolts people and really think through getting from where you are to the win that you’ve identified.
- Another very important key is the tough job of determining if there are existing steps that don’t lead to the win you’ve identified. In other words, if 100% of your adults in groups is the win, and if you’ve acknowledged that most adults will only give you two (or three) time slots a week…then you’re next job is to determine what to do with the opportunities that might actually be keeping people from committing to a group. For example, if you’re committed to small groups as the primary way that discipleship happens but you’re still actively promoting a mid-week service as a next step…you may need to evaluate whether the adults in your congregation will give you two weeknights in addition to Sunday morning. If you know that a group experience in a home is very different than an on-campus Sunday School class…then you need to think carefully about whether those are two ways of getting the same thing.
This is a process that should be done with a team. Taking the time to thoughtfully work through these four keys will yield a customized strategy, but it will take time and persistence. Write out a simple set of statements that reflect your new, clarified thinking. You ought to be able to fit everything on a page. You may be able to print them on a poster. Pull the page out any time you are talking about what to do next.
The 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley and Reggie Joiner is an excellent book that will help you develop your own thinking on clarifying what a win is, thinking about the steps that lead to a win, and narrowing the focus to the things that contribute to a win.
Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni will help you learn how to keep your strategy clear and talk about it in a way that focuses your team on the same objectives.