Want to make disciples who make disciples? If you want to develop more than a program for high achievers seeking the most challenging merit badge, making disciples who make disciples must be built into the way ordinary life happens at your church.
If you want to develop more than a program for high achievers seeking the most challenging merit badge, making disciples who make disciples must be built into the way ordinary life happens at your church. Click To Tweet
This is a very big deal friends. One of the most significant strategic misses in the 21st century is the belief that small groups are good for connecting people but making disciples requires something more or something better.
If you've been along for much of this conversation, you know that one of my assumptions is that "the optimal environment for life-change is a small group."
You might also remember that one of the major roadblocks to small group ministry is a myopic understanding of the culture that, among other things, holds onto "participation expectations are determined according to decades old pace of life realities."
Add these two ideas together and you'll probably arrive at my conclusion:
Making disciples who make disciples must be built into the way ordinary life happens at your church.
How can we do that? How can making disciples who make disciples be built into the ordinary life of your church? I believe it happens at the corner of belonging and becoming.
5 keys to building small group ministry at the corner of belonging and becoming:
1. Celebrate small group involvement as a way of life.
The more you make small group involvement an ordinary way of life (as opposed to something unusual or extraordinary or even extracurricular, the more it will seem like something that everybody does.
How can you make it seem ordinary?
Tell stories on a regular basis. If it is an ordinary expectation, something almost everyone is part of, doesn't it make sense that you'd be talking about it all the time and not just when you're doing a groups push or a church-wide campaign? Highlight testimonies frequently.
Take advantage of every available format (sermon, announcement, bulletin, website, social media, e-newsletter, email, video, etc.).
The more you celebrate small group involvement as an ordinary way of life, the less it will feel like something only for overachievers.
2. Build easy first steps out of the auditorium.
Remember, unconnected attenders are almost always infrequent attenders. And it's important to keep in mind that for many unconnected people, coming to church for the first time was not an afterthought. They most likely agonized over it, almost visited several times, and then finally pulled into the parking lot. I've met several in the last few years who never got out of their car the first time they tried to check it out.
It is a very difficult step.
Those same people, the ones who agonized over coming for the first time, need a very easy first step out of the auditorium.
How easy is your first step? Do you think it's easy in their eyes? Is it a baby step? Or does it actually require olympic long jumper strength and Evel Knievel courage and bravado?
If you want to connect unconnected people, you need to build first steps out of the auditorium that feel easy to them.
3. Build an effective coaching structure that develops and disciples leaders.
The essence of the role of a coach is to do TO and FOR (and WITH) the leaders they're coaching whatever you want the leaders to do TO and FOR (and WITH) the members of their groups.
Coaching often defaults to accounting or reporting, as if the essence of the role of a coach is to extract accurate information about attendance and activity.
Instead, what leaders actually need from their coaches is care expressed as life-on-life discipling.
Unfortunately, this key is often missed. In my opinion, you cannot expect #4 or #5 to happen without developing an effective coaching structure.
4. Model belonging and cultivate a sense of family.
Humans come factory equipped with a desire to belong. More than just a desire, it is a need. It is actually one of our highest needs. Psychologists understand this. Marketers understand this. Cult leaders understand this.
The desire to belong is a very powerful human need. We all feel it.
If you want to build a thriving small group ministry, your small group leaders need to learn how make belonging and a sense of family an ordinary part of grouplife.
Keep in mind that whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups, must happen in the lives of your leaders first. And that defines the true role of the coach.
5. Build a small group culture that at its core is about becoming like Jesus.
As I've said many times, connected in community must lead directly and without exception to growing in Christ. The idea that small groups are about fellowship (connecting) and another experience (a program) would be about discipleship (growing) is a relic of the 20th century (and maybe the 19th century).
Now, everyone has their own definition of what it means to be a disciple. I've always found Dallas Willard's definition of a mature disciple very helpful: "A mature disciple is one who effortlessly does what Jesus would do if Jesus were him."
At its core, discipleship is not about knowing. It's about becoming.
Connected in community must lead directly and without exception to growing in Christ. The idea that small groups are about fellowship (connecting) and another experience (a program) would be about discipleship (growing) is a relic of… Click To Tweet
What do you think? Have a question? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.
Image by Bowman!