(This is part 7 of a 7 part series. You can read part 1 right here)
If I was starting over and knew then what I know now…I’d take advantage of the central role of the senior pastor. This is a huge concept and absolutely explains a key difference between churches that with groups and churches of groups (see my series. The Top 10 Fantasies of Church WITH Groups). If you are the senior pastor, you need to understand this concept. If you aren’t, you need to understand it and then make sure your senior pastor gets it. Without this step…groups will never be pervasive. Why? Read on…
Senior Pastor as Champion: The Big Idea
For groups to be pervasive in your church (a church “of” as opposed to “with”) your senior pastor needs to become your small group champion. I’m not saying they need to do the the dirty work. Organization, planning, training, etc. can all be done by other staff members or even key volunteers. But if the senior pastor isn’t the lead spokesperson…you’ll have limited success. Why? In most churches the senior pastor is the most influential person. When they speak, people listen. When anyone else walks up (announcements, etc.) listening and engagement immediately decrease.
The best example right now is the way Saddleback uses Rick Warren as the key spokesperson for group life (all of their teaching pastors play the role very well). You’ll hear about groups in announcements and in the printed material as well, but it’s a very rare week when you don’t hear about them in the message.
How to Implement the Big Idea
- Champion community regularly: Every worship service is an opportunity to talk about the importance of community. As messages are prepared, take advantage of any illustration that could refer to small groups or the power of community. Use testimonies (live or video) whenever possible. Most sermon topics can find application in group life (encouragement, accountability, support, challenge).
- Cast vision broadly: In addition to the weekend message, take advantage of your website, newsletter, all church e-newsletter, scrolling slides before the service begins, Small Group Table in the lobby with a stand-up poster featuring a short blurb by your senior pastor (“I can’t imagine trying to ‘do life alone.'”).
- Coordinate messages and themes throughout the year: Although you can insert small group stories and testimonies in most messages, featuring the importance of community at strategic times is important. Late September/Early October is a key time to think alignment (weekend message series combined with small group curriculum). Another great time is end of January/early February.
- Call to action: Using a “call to action” gives an easy way to respond. Make it easy to find a group (use a web application like Churchteams) or even a list of groups at the table in the lobby. Be sure you’re staffing the table or booth with friendly, knowledgeable people (especially friendly people who are looking for members in their own group!). E-newsletter articles by your senior pastor with active links into your small group finder are another way to provide a call to action.
The key to this whole concept is for your senior pastor to use every opportunity to champion group life. Day to day ministry leadership can be delegated to the small group pastor. Big picture vision and communication cannot be given away.
Image by Brett Wood