Required Reading for the Small Group Pastor: Systems

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reading listBuilding a small group ministry? The first set of books that I think of as required reading fall in the category of systems. These 7 books provide an overview of what I view as the major systems in use right now.

I have my system of preference. You will too. My preferred system has problems. Yours will too. Remember, there is no problem-free. Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they'd rather have. I've included all of them because I believe we can learn from all of them.

Looking for real help in designing and building a dynamic small group ministry? I just finished looking over a new book that I think you’re going to want to see. Building a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry is an important addition to the collection of resources produced by Bill Donahue and his team of former Willow Creek compadres…and it is very good.

In my mind there are several things to love about Building a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry. First, it begins and ends with some very good instruction on the possibility of change...

You can read the rest of my review right here.

I’ve said this a number of times, but I want to be sure and say this again. Steve Gladen is a couple of things. First, he’s one of the smartest GroupLife guys on the planet. He’s also one of the most helpful small group experts on the planet.

Steve’s new book, Small Groups with Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities is a perfect example of his brilliance and his extreme helpfulness. Even better? It is a great book, absolutely packed with wisdom and insight. You’ll have trouble finding a chapter that doesn’t get extremely marked up, underlined, starred, and dogeared for future reference.

Read the rest of my review right here.

Looking for a way to think about how to design your small group ministry? That might be the most helpful thing about Creating Community: Five Keys to Building a Small Group Culture. Although it’s a short book (190 pages), it contains some very important keys to building a small group culture in your church. Most important?  North Point’s fundamental bias is to be intentional about the what and the how of everything they do. This is a huge lesson for the rest of us…one not to be missed.

Like the 7 Practices of Effective Ministry, Creating Community takes you sequentially through the process of making some challenging decisions as you begin to develop a small group ministry. Learning to ask three questions can provide a good foundation...

Read the rest of my review right here.

Looking for a soup-to-nuts primer on small group ministry? For most churches,  Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups by Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas will neatly fill that need. Unless yours is a large church (average adult attendance of more than 1,000), this will be a resource that will fill in a lot of blanks.

Covering the Journey Church methodology very thoroughly in 223 pages, Activate guides you from philosophy to implementation in a semester based approach. Is it an “entirely new approach to small groups?” No. Does that make it any less valuable? No again. Incorporating concepts from a variety of sources, the Journey approach is a neatly designed system that will work in most churches.

Read the rest of my review right here.

Interested in developing sermon-based small groups? Sticky Church by Larry Osborne is packed with helpful insights.

In addition to providing the nuts and bolts of how it works, Sticky Church carefully explains the underlying assumptions and principles North Coast has used to develop their sermon-based small group strategy. Finally, you’ll also find an appendix that is full of the forms, job descriptions and covenants you’ll need to begin to implement the concept.

Is the strategy for everyone? No. Is it designed to do it all? No, but no approach is.

Read the rest of my review right here.

When Carl George published Prepare Your Church for the Future in 1991 it was not the first book on small group ministry. In fact, at the time it came out there were already many books on the idea of gathering in community with a few others…for Bible study or prayer or accountability or care. If you’ve been around for a while, or have access to the library of someone who’s been around for a while, you’ve seen other books that predate George’s entry into the small group foray. But you really won’t find many others that have been as influential.

The concept of the metachurch finds its roots in Prepare Your Church for the Future. At the time of its writing it meant the next step beyond mega, but not in the sense of size. More in the sense of organization.

Read the rest of my review right here.

Missional Communities are at the epicenter of one of the most important current trends in grouplife and the work of Mike Breen and 3DM is at the heart of it.

Leading Missional Communities takes the concept far beyond launching.  Leading Missional Communities is designed to explain “how to lead [missional communities] well so they become a reproducing hotbed for discipleship and mission in churches.”

You can read the rest of my review right here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, I am a small group specialist for LifeWay. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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  1. Brian Allen Brunke on March 30, 2013 at 7:33 am

    I disagree that Activate will only work at small churches. The church I serve runs over 2,000 and his system is working effectively for us

  2. markchowell on March 30, 2013 at 7:41 am

    Thanks for jumping in Brian. Good to know that your church is finding the system effective. I love the way the system is presented. Clearly a well thought out concept. Where I’ve seen only limited effectiveness comes into play as churches attempt to move beyond 50% or so of their adult weekend attendance in groups. It sounds like you may have broken that barrier. True? I’d love to hear more about it. You can email me at