I don't know about you...but when I think back on my over 25 years of small group ministry experience, I can spot a truckload of mistakes, blind spots, and faulty assumptions that neutralized a thriving small group ministry. And I've made every one of them.
I'm sure there are many, many more, but here are the first 35 that occurred to me.
1. I didn't realize my senior pastor needed to be the small group champion.
2. I didn't understand my opportunity or responsibility to help my pastor be the small group champion.
3. I believed I could build a thriving small group ministry without the engagement of key church leadership.
4. I under-appreciated my own role in developing a culture of authentic community.
5. I didn't realize that a small group is the optimum environment for life-change.
6. I didn't recognize that the primary activity of the early church was one-anothering one another.
7. I spent 5 years believing that the Meta Church model alone would build a thriving small group ministry.
8. I spent another 5 years on the hunt for a problem-free small group model.
9. I accepted the idea that meeting twice a month was ideal.
10. I thought the most important ingredient in a small group was good curriculum.
11. I didn't realize that the usual suspects want to study topics that unconnected people don't care about.
12. I didn't realize that unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at my church again.
13. I thought the best way to multiply groups was for groups to "grow and birth."
14. I thought the best way to identify potential small group leaders was to ask existing small group leaders for their recommendations.
15. I didn't realize that God has already answered the Matthew 9 prayer for workers and that most churches just don't know who they are.
16. I thought the small group connection strategy sounded crazy.
17. I thought the HOST strategy sounded crazy.
18. I didn't see the exponential outreach potential of a church-wide campaign using the HOST strategy for several years.
19. I didn't appreciate the outreach limitation of a church-wide campaign using the HOST strategy until I attempted to use it in what turned out to be a fortress church.
21. I didn't realize that skilled Bible teachers could actually impede steps into leadership for group members.
22. I didn't recognize the potential of video-driven small group curriculum to help ordinary people start groups.
23. I didn't realize that the most connected people in a church have the fewest connections outside the church.
24. I didn't anticipate the time when it would be far easier to say "come over to my house" than "come with me to my church."
25. I didn't appreciate the fact that options actually make choosing a next step more difficult.
26. I didn't know that the leap from the safety of the auditorium to a stranger's living room was too big of a step.
27. I didn't understand that a six-week commitment to a group was short enough to help unconnected people say "yes" and long enough for them to begin to feel connected.
28. I missed the significance of helping new groups survive the holidays.
29. I underestimated the potential of a summer "book club" to connect men and women.
30. I thought the best way to train small group leaders was to hold a required small group leader training course.
31. I thought the best way to disciple people was one-on-one.
32. I thought making disciples depended on a curriculum.
33. I said "yes" to people who wanted to be a coach without testing their motives or their capacity.
34. I over-appreciated the "instructor of technique" role of a coach (i.e., coaching leaders to add or improve their skills).
35. I under-appreciated the modeling role of a coach (doing to and for the leader whatever you want the leader to do to and for their members).
What do you think? Have one to add that I missed? You can click here to jump into the conversation.
Image by Christian Yves Ocampo