Note: This was originally published on February 10, 2020. COVID-19 had not arrived in the U.S.
I don't know about you, but sometimes when I'm assembling something (like the standing desk I bought from IKEA), it can be a little frustrating.
Know what I'm talking about?
The printed instructions are often unclear. The standing desk's instructions were actually a sequential series of drawings (not unlike an Egyptian pictograph or a prehistoric drawing in a cave).
Every step required thoughtful evaluation, sometimes asking a friend for a second opinion, before finally making a decision, which led to (a) success* or (b) the discovery than an earlier assembly decision had been incorrect after all.
Can I get a witness?
Which brings me to the subject for today's post.
Have you ever been confused about how to make small group ministry work in the 21st century?
Things were simpler in the 90s
I don't know how long you've been doing this, but it seems to me that a lot of things were simpler in the 90s.
In the 90s you could focus your attention on finding and training men and women with leadership potential and then assign members to the newly trained leaders' groups.
Further, in most cases, you could rely on every small group leader to be developing an apprentice who would lead their own group 12 to 18 months later.
And still further, in the 90s you could still imagine that the majority of these new leaders and new members knew something about the Bible and believed that it was more than something that used to be important. See also, The 90s Called and They Want Their Small Group System Back.
And then we found ourselves in the 21st century
And that brings me to the mystery of small group ministry in the 21st century.
I really believe if you're going to build a thriving small group ministry in the 21st century, you must be aware of a set of cultural shifts and change your approach to account for the shifts.
I've often pointed out that "your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley)." These are the facts and they are undisputed.
And since that is true, if your ministry is running on a 20th century model, you should not expect to experience the results you hoped for in the midst of the 21st century. See also, Hearing a Ringing Sound? It May Be the Clue Phone
Five 21st century culture shifts that are impacting the effectiveness of 20th century models:
Note: Clearly, the effects of COVID-19 have already altered some aspects of what makes an effective small group ministry model. For example, if you can't meet online (via Zoom, Google Meet or some other platform), you're going to have a difficult time staying connected as a group. If you're not "meeting" on a regular basis, a LOT is going to happen between meetings. And if you're not connecting between meetings, you're going to have a very hard time one-anothering one another.
These are significant realities right now and most likely will continue to be significant post COVID-19.
At the same time, the following five 21st century culture shifts are already having a devastating impact on 20th century small group models.
1. New leaders will not come with biblical knowledge pre-installed.
Depending on how you choose new small group leaders, it may become increasingly unlikely that new leaders will come factory equipped with biblical knowledge. Biblical knowledge may have to be an after-market install.
2. Group "descriptions" may (will) need to be revisited.
How you describe the kinds of groups you offer may need to be revisited. Questions like, "Who can join a couples group?" and "How will we offer community to everyone?" will need to be answered.
3. Leader training will need to re-evaluated.
How you train small group leaders will need to be evaluated. Training leaders to facilitate dynamic discussions is very different than equipping them to care for group members with a different worldview.
4. Existing connecting strategies need to be evaluated and enhanced.
The primary entry point may need to be evaluated. Once you have connected the most likely to connect (which has already happened in many instances) you may need to find new ways to connect beyond the usual suspects.
5. Between-meeting connection will need to deepen.
As average attenders attend weekend services less frequently, it becomes increasingly more important that deeper connection happens elsewhere (and not just on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m.).
As average attenders attend weekend services less frequently, it becomes increasingly more important that deeper connection happens elsewhere (and not just on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m.). #cultureshift Click To Tweet
- The Future of Small Group Ministry
- Are You Preparing for the Future of Small Group Ministry?
- 5 Important Trends in Small Group Ministry
- 5 Implications for Small Group Ministries as Powerful Trends Emerge
Image by Marcus Pink