If I Was Starting Today…

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If I knew then what I know now...

That's where this post finds its roots.  I've been at this a while and I'm often asked what I'd do if I was starting fresh but armed with what I know now.

Have you ever thought about what you'd do differently if you could do it over again? What decisions might you wish to have back or to switch up how you acted?

Let me tell you something. If I had known then what I know now (about small group ministry), there are definitely some things I would do differently.

Like what? I'd work harder to discover and ask the right questions.

Peter Drucker, the noted business consultant and author said, “The most common source of management mistakes is not the failure to find the right answers. It is the failure to ask the right questions… Nothing is more dangerous in business than the right answer to the wrong question”

"Nothing is more dangerous in business than the right answer to the wrong question” Peter DruckerNothing is more dangerous in business than the right answer to the wrong question. Share on X

Drucker was right.

I also hope I'd think harder about the problem I was trying to solve.

Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

Although I believe there are no problem-free small group systems, models or strategies, I do believe understanding the fundamental problems and asking the right questions will make a very big difference.

Three questions and seven core ideas

In my mind there are three questions and seven core ideas. And it all begins with this question: "What business are we in?"

"What business are we in?"

This might be a foreign concept to you.  If it is, please hang in here. This is a very important idea that must be understood. If it's old news to you...we're going further but we have to start here.

"What business are we in?" It's an old question in the business world. A key question in the Peter Drucker tradition. It may seem out of place here, but it is a huge question that should be asked at the very beginning of any discussion about small group ministry. Why? Because your answer will determine so much about what you ought to be doing. Follow me on this. Seriously give some thought to the way you would describe what it is that you're trying to do. This is the mission question and even though we're talking about small groups you ought to have an understanding of your mission.  Do you?

If I were starting today (or pulling my team in for a discussion that might lead to a better direction) I'd be asking this question first. What business are we in?

Let's take a crack at it right now. There are several possible answers.  I think you'll see that your answer will determine some very important things.

  • We're in the business of connecting people: That's a good answer, but may not be complete. For example, if all you're trying to do is connect people it might say something about your preferred methods and also what you'll call a win.
  • We're in the business of giving people an in-depth Bible study experience: I've heard this argument. Not necessarily bad or wrong...but it will say something about method and what you'll call a win.
  • We're in the business of making leaders: Again, not bad...but is that what you're really trying to do?
  • We're in the business of making disciples: What do you think about that one? Closer? Still, it might be mine but not for you.

Years ago I heard Jim Dethmer talk about the mission of the small group ministry at Willow Creek. He described their mission this way: "To connect people relationally in groups (of 6 to 10) where they can grow in Christ, love one another, and further the work of the Kingdom."

You need to ask and answer this question for your ministry.  Don't take the mission of another organization. Get crystal clear on your own raison d'etre.  It is the first formative step in building a successful small group ministry.

Take some time to sort through the idea and develop your own conviction.  Use the comment section here to let me know what you're thinking.

This is part 1 of a 7 part series. You can read part 2 right here.

Image by Jake and Lindsay Sherbert

Further Reading:

Ministry in a Fog? Here are 6 Critical Questions that Create Clarity

The Right Answer to the Wrong Question

6 Essential Questions about Making Disciples and Small Group Ministry

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