How to Build a Small Group Ministry in a Sunday School Culture, Part 2

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The first step in building a small group ministry in a church with a Sunday School culture is to clarify and skillfully communicate your reasons for choosing to build a Small Group Ministry.  Both elements are critical.  You will want to work hard in the very beginning to get comfortable with explaining the benefits.

First, you’ll need to clarify your reasons.  Here are a few to get you started:

  • Adults who aren’t already attending a worship service and a Sunday School class are unlikely to start.  I have found that a quick survey of existing adult Sunday School class leaders is pretty revealing.  Simply asking your leaders if they can remember the last person who joined their class who did not come from another class somewhere.
  • On-campus classes or studies often have a more restricted start and stop time (i.e., we begin at 9:00 a.m. and must be out by 10:15 a.m. so that the next class can set up).  The shorter format makes it difficult for groups to relax and engage in meaningful conversation.  Off-campus groups provide an opportunity for a warmer, less structured meeting without the time crunch.
  • Reaching neighbors and friends is made much easier when the invitation is to “come on over” as opposed to “meet us in the parking lot.”
  • An off-campus strategy allows for unlimited growth.  You aren’t restricted by available space.

Second, you’ll need to skillfully communicate your reasons.  Here are a few keys:

  • Vividly paint the picture of the people you are trying to reach.  Talk about specific demographic types (for example, young families, families with teens, empty-nesters).
  • Talk candidly about the preferences of the group you’re trying to reach.  Craig Groeschel has said that, “If you want to reach people that no one else is reaching you’re going to have to do things that no one else is doing.”  If the group you’d like to reach has already voted with their feet and aren’t attending Sunday School…
  • It rarely is an either/or situation.  While there are times when the space needs of your children’s ministry will begin to crowd out adults, that is not always the case.  Where it isn’t essential to eliminate adult Sunday School it is almost always ill-advised to do so.  Better to cast the vision for a strategy that reaches both.

You can read part 3 of my series right here.


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