How to Build a Small Group Ministry in a Sunday School Culture, Part 5

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Churches make the decision to launch a small group ministry in a church with a Sunday School culture for a variety of reasons.

  • There may be a growing conviction that while an on-campus solution may work for some…it isn’t working for everyone.
  • There may be a sense that we need to provide a menu that will satisfy the tastes of everyone.
  • Sometimes a church will determine that an off-campus solution will make it easier for members to invite neighbors.

You can see that any of the above makes for valid motivation.  Still, whatever your motivation, I want to encourage you to execute your plan while staying alert to the feelings of people.  Since you’re launching a small group ministry in a church that already has a functioning Sunday School ministry there are some very important things to keep in mind.

First, while you may need to re-clarify the purpose of your Sunday School ministry, it is working for some.  It may only be working in their opinion and may fall very short of your hopes for their discipleship needs…but that’s almost never the doing of the participants.  Want more for your members?  You’ll have some work to do on the Sunday School ministry itself…but that’s a separate issue.

Second, when you’re launching a small group ministry you’ll most likely take advantage of several different marketing tools.  Stories inserted into your pastor’s Sunday messages, announcements during worship services, bulletin/program blurbs, website, and newsletter/e-newsletter articles all present opportunities to strategically describe what a small group offers…and do it in a way that doesn’t make your Sunday School advocates feel like chopped liver.

Third, if you do the hard work on the front end of re-clarifying the purpose of Sunday School, small groups, and any other discipleship oriented activities…it will be much easier to promote the importance of being connected.

So…your assignment before launching?  Easy.

  1. Spend some time clarifying the purpose of Sunday School.  Is it just fellowship?  Is it really discipleship?  Are your Sunday School classes really just smaller versions of your Sunday service (i.e., singing, announcements, and a teaching style that doesn’t lead to discussion)?
  2. What do small groups offer that isn’t being offered by your on-campus classes?  Depending on your conclusion, that may be a reason to evaluate either what your Sunday School classes offer or what your groups are designed to provide.


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