As I've written previously, I evaluate the effectiveness of small group strategy through a carefully developed process. My process is based on three assumptions and the first assumption I make is that "it is what it is." That is, what is happening in your small group ministry right now is directly related to the way it is designed.
I love the way that Andy Stanley says it: "Your ministry is perfectly designed to give you the results you are currently experiencing."
When you think about your small group ministry (or the ministry of your church in the broader sense), do you ever stop to think that the things you are finding exciting or frustrating are the direct result of the way your ministry is designed? In other words, if you're excited because your small group system is really producing a growing number of committed Christ-followers who are actively engaging in ministry together…it is the directly related to the way your small group ministry is designed. And on the other hand, if you're frustrated by the way your groups never seem to stick…it is the direct result of your design. Ever had that thought?
You need to have that thought. You need to be able to really own the fact that there is a reason, a definite reason, that things are the way they are. After all, the systems you are currently using, the curriculum you're currently using, the recruiting tactics, everything together…is perfectly designed to give you the results you are currently experiencing.
In some ways this is related to the practices of Good to Great companies who infused everything with the "brutal facts of reality." Jim Collins makes the point that "You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts (p. 70, Good to Great)."
Let me encourage you to take advantage of right now to give serious attention to the pieces that make up your design. You may need to carve out a few hours, a day, maybe even a week or a weekend retreat to carefully evaluate all the moving parts. Here's a short list that will get you started:
- What kind of priority are you giving small group ministry? Is it clearly the way you're making disciples? Or is it one of several ways?
- Are you emphasizing the importance of small groups every week in your worship service? Or is it a seasonal highlight?
- Are you investing sufficient energy in developing a constant stream of ways that the importance of groups is being highlighted? (live testimonies, video, personal stories told by the senior pastor, announcements, special events)
- To what extent are you developing your small group leaders? Are you proactively investing in them? Or are you mostly doing crisis intervention?
You can see that there is a lot to talk about! The key? Start talking. If you want results that you're not currently getting…you're going to have to do something different. And the very first step is to understand the system you actually have in place.