I get questions. A LOT of questions. Some by email. Others embedded in comments here on the blog. And still more when I'm speaking at a conference or workshop.
Some version of today's question is a very frequent question:
"What do you need to budget for if you want to build a small group ministry?"
Great question, don't you think? Maybe you've wondered yourself!
Before I answer it, let me point out the obvious.
We invest in what's important. If small group ministry is important, the decision to invest in it should be automatic.
I like the way my friend Carl George states the obvious:
"Leaders allocate the finite resources to the critical growth path." —Carl George
Here's how I think about the small group ministry budget:
Keep in mind that every church, every ministry, thinks about budgets differently. It really does have to do with individual priorities.
4 categories we budget for:
1. Starting new groups.
This may not be a priority in your environment, but if you want to build a thriving small group ministry you will prioritize launching new groups. We budget for two main initiatives:
- An annual church-wide campaign: We budget money that will make it easy for a new host to say yes to hosting. When someone says "yes" to inviting a couple friends to do the study, we want to make it more affordable. We do that by "buying" down the price of the host kit (for example, the retail value of the Transformed host kit was $65. We sold them for $20).
- Small group connections throughout the year: We want to make it easy for unconnected people to get connected. We budget for childcare and for a quick pizza and a drink lunch.
2. Recruiting and developing small group coaches.
We believe that whatever we want to happen in the lives of the members of our groups must happen in the lives of the leaders first. Therefore, we budget money for both recruiting and developing coaches.
- Coffee and meals: We budget so that our staff and Groups Directors (a volunteer position that cares for coaches) can meet coaches for coffee or meals.
- Coach's Huddles: We budget for 8 Coach's Huddles a year. Gathering for encouragement and training is an essential part of our development initiative.
We believe that whatever we want to happen in the lives of the members of our groups must happen in the lives of the leaders first. Therefore, we budget money for both recruiting and developing coaches. Click To Tweet
3. Developing small group leaders.
We make it as easy as possible for new leaders to step into leadership and nearly automatic that they step onto a leadership development "conveyor belt." We budget for:
- Coffee and meals: We will reimburse our coaches for reasonable expenses for coffee or meals when they gather with the leaders they are developing.
- Twice a year Lead Well gatherings: We budget for an on-campus gathering twice a year for all leaders and coaches. We cover the cost of snacks, coffee and drinks, handouts, prizes, and fun.
We make it as easy as possible for new leaders to step into leadership and nearly automatic that they step onto a leadership development conveyor belt. Therefore we budget for this priority. Click To Tweet
4. Church-Wide Campaigns.
Once a year, usually in the fall, we schedule a church-wide campaign that aligns our weekend message series and a small group study (think Transformed). This is a major initiative and the primary way we launch new small groups. We budget for:
- DVDs and Study Guides: We want to make it easy for everyone in the church to participate. We want to make it as affordable as possible. We've budgeted an increasing amount every year to make it more affordable every time we do it. In the most recent campaign we made study guides available at $5 (and gave away a significant number to any who couldn't afford to pay).
- Promotional materials: We budget money to produce invitations, mailings, host kits, collateral items (bulletin inserts, sign-up cards, FAQs, etc.).
- Host Gathering: We set aside money to hold a host gathering. Food and fun set up the right environment to inspire our newest hosts and encourage our most experienced leaders.
These are the main categories we budget for. While there are other things that are nice to have (books, conferences, coaching for the small group pastor, etc.), these are essentials.
Need more help?
If you're trying to build a thriving small group ministry, my online video courses provide the direction you need. How to Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry is based on my most requested workshop. You can find out more right here.
Image by Ken Teegardin