How to Launch a Small Group Ministry

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launch a small group ministryPlanning to launch a small group ministry but not sure what to do first? In my experience there are four key steps to launching a small group ministry. These steps are not hard, but they do require some thinking and decision making. There are also a couple shortcuts if you don’t have the discipline to take the necessary steps (see below for the shortcuts).

Four steps to launching a small group ministry:

  1. Answer fundamental questions. Before you do anything else, you need to answer some fundamental questions. “What business you will be in?” “Who will be your customer?” and “What will you call success?” are three of a set of very important questions that I believe must be answered first. These answers allow you to begin with the end in mind and help you avoid time consuming and costly backtracking. One of the most common reasons small group ministries fail to get off the ground is a lack of clarity about the answers to these questions. See also, 7 Steps I’d Take If I Was Starting Today.
  2. Determine the end in mind. Only after determining the answers to fundamental questions would it be wise to begin to develop a preferred future for your small group ministry. Developing a preferred future, a well thought out vision for what you want things to look like 10 years from now, can help you see clearly what will need to happen first and 15 to 18 months from now. See also, Start with the End in MindCreating Your “Refined” Preferred Future and Is Your Preferred Future Grand Enough?.
  3. Choose a small group system, model or strategy. Once you’ve determined your preferred future, what you want things to look like 10 years from now, you will be ready to choose a small group system, model or strategy. Once you’ve determined a preferred future, a destination, it becomes easier to decide on a small group system that will take you where you want to go. For example, you may determine that because you need to connect a larger number of people in the first 2 years, you can’t rely on a system that organically develops new leaders every 18 months. See also, Breaking: No Problem-Free Small Group System, Model or Strategy.
  4. Evaluate after every ministry season. You should be evaluating the effectiveness of your ministry on a regular basis. Not that you would choose a new system after one season, but you should be determining what went right and what went wrong, what was missing or confused after the season is over. Developing the habit of evaluating everything will protect you from getting miles off course or wasting time on a strategy that is ill-suited for your needs. See also, How Are You Evaluating Your Small Group Ministry?

As I mentioned, there are a couple shortcuts to launching. You could hire a coach (someone who could walk you more quickly through the fundamental questions and decisions). Or you could skip the preliminaries and simply run a strategy that will launch a lot of new groups and connect a lot of unconnected people in a wave (i.e., launch a church-wide campaign or a small group connection). See also, 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign and How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection.

Image by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

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