We are just stuck! We’ve been at this level for over 2 years (or 5 years). We can’t seem to break out of this rut. We add 10 new groups and lose 12. We finally recruit enough coaches to care for new leaders only to have them drop out after one semester. Our small group ministry is just stuck!
“Our small group ministry is stuck” is one of the most common concerns I hear from small group pastors and senior pastors about small group ministry. “How can we get unstuck?” is definitely one of the most common questions.
There are a number of moves you can make that will help get your small group ministry get unstuck. None of these moves are painless or easy, but all of them will pay off. The movement they bring will be worth the pain.
5 moves that will help your small group ministry get unstuck:
- Evaluate the suitability of your current system or strategy. Although it is true that there are no problem-free solutions (systems, models or strategies), underestimating the problems that come with the system you’ve chosen is often the root of the issue. See also, Breaking: No Problem-Free Small Group System, Model or Strategy.
- Prioritize launching new groups over adding new members to existing groups. It may seem to be a small thing, but this is actually a very powerful move. Train existing group leaders to find new members and fill their own groups. Focus your energy on launching new groups. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Start New Groups?
- Plan to sustain new groups into their 3rd study. This is a very important move. Launching new groups takes a lot of energy. Launching new groups without doing the work necessary to sustain them is irresponsible and poor stewardship. It is also a very common reason that many small group ministries are stuck. If you want to make this move, you’ll choose the right next curriculum, you’ll assign a great coach out of the gate, and you’ll talk it up from the stage. See also, 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups.
- Evaluate and upgrade your coaching structure. With few exceptions, most of the complaining that coaching does not work is done by pastors who have settled for available and willing instead of holding out for shaped and called. If you want the members of your groups to have a good experience (i.e., if you want them to know they are loved, known, cared for, held accountable, forgiven, etc.), you must acknowledge that the leader must have that experience first. Unless you have a lot of staff members or very few groups, you cannot provide that experience for your leaders. You will have to provide it through a coaching structure (making an appropriate span of care possible). See also, Diagnosis: The Coaches in Your System and 20 Frequently Asked Questions about Small Group Coaching.
- Trim your belonging and becoming menu. Actions speak louder than words. If you want to connect more people in groups, you must make joining a group an easy and obvious step. Choices and options don’t make it easier to take next steps. Choices and options make next steps harder. Narrowing the focus to a single best step is a powerful move. You may not be able to drastically eliminate all choices and options in one move, but you can reshape which are promoted (announcements, mentions, website, bulletins, etc.). In addition, you may not be able to make sweeping changes in one move but you can begin to trim options (even if it is eliminating the weakest link this year). See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu.
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