I've been thinking lately about the biggest roadblocks to small group ministry; the things that stand in the way of a truly thriving small group ministry. See also, 10 Powerful Benefits of a Thriving Small Group Ministry.
Here are what I believe are the top 5 roadblocks:
- A doubtful or conflicted senior pastor.
- A bloated belong and become menu.
- Indecision about the best next step.
- A myopic understanding of the culture.
- A leadership development disconnect
Roadblock #1: A doubtful or conflicted senior pastor.
As I've said many times, building a thriving small group ministry absolutely depends on a senior pastor who is the champion, the face of grouplife. In every church where small group ministry thrives, the senior pastor is the main spokesperson. In nearly every instance where small group ministry struggles or fails, the senior pastor is doubtful about the essential role of life-on-life ministry or conflicted about the best way to connect and disciple people.
In nearly every instance where small group ministry struggles or fails, the senior pastor is doubtful about the essential role of life-on-life ministry or conflicted about the best way to connect and disciple people. Click To Tweet
Doubtful about the essential role of life-on-life:
Sometimes a senior pastor has never really thought about the way life-change really happens. Taking for granted that the weekend message or the weekend worship service provides 100% of the minimum requirements for spiritual growth turns a blind eye to the one-anothers of the Bible. See also, The Primary Activity of the Early Church.
Solution: Admittedly, this is a very tough sell. What's the work-around? I think part of it is to simply live it yourself and constantly tell stories of authentic life-change as they happen. There's no substitute for you modeling the real thing. It does help in some instances to point out the personal stories of high-profile pastors like Rick Warren, Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel. You need to do that carefully and with wisdom. It is compelling evidence when you hear or read the personal accounts of some of America's most highly regarded preachers talk about the power of life-on-life. FYI: I am working on a post with quotes from many prominent senior pastors about the essential aspect of life-on-life.
Conflicted about the best way to connect and disciple people:
Sometimes a senior pastor has come to conclusion that life-change happens with some blend of weekend service and a life-on-life ingredient...but is conflicted about the best way to connect and disciple people. When that happens a senior pastor will almost always see the need to equally promote all of the available options (i.e., on-campus classes like Precepts or Bible Study Fellowship, specialized and intensive discipleship programs like MasterLife, the Real Life Discipleship Manual or a homegrown option, etc.).
Solution: A discussion about the degree of difficulty in choosing from too large a menu and an awareness of the precarious position of unconnected people will help. Not easy, but any means, but a necessary discussion. See also, Supercharge Your Ministry with These 5 Questions, How to Make Next Steps Easier to Choose, and What's Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?
The struggle is real:
The struggle to build a thriving small group ministry without your senior pastor's confident and certain championing is real. But keeping the urgent needs of unconnected people and immature Jesus followers on your front burner will make a difference.
There is a reason this is the number 1 roadblock. While the other roadblocks are debilitating, they are all easier to clear.
The effort to clear roadblock number 1 is rarely a single meeting or conversation. It is occasionally a matter of pointing to an example or several of what it looks like when done well. It is almost always a gradual move in the right direction, often over several seasons or years.
I have had to help all of my senior pastors move in the direction of small group champion. Their conversion was never immediate. And in a couple instances they never fully embraced the role.
You can do this. Your effort, your persistence will benefit the unconnected men and women in your crowd. It will also make a difference in the lives of countless men and women who otherwise will struggle to grow in their faith.
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