Robert Frost's epic line is never more important than when making 5 critical choices that have massive impact...in small group ministry.
Have you ever thought about the way some of the tiniest, seemingly insignificant choices can make the biggest differences in outcomes?
5 critical choices that have massive impact:
1. Hand selected, prequalified leader candidates (chosen from the usual suspects) vs qualified on-the-spot and chosen by peers.
Many choices are counterintuitive. Doesn't it just make sense that you would want to know more about your leader candidates before allowing them to lead? Wouldn't prequalifying your leaders lead to fewer really bad mistakes?
It actually turns out that the route to exponential growth (in terms of the number of groups) takes you directly through the neighborhood of lowering the leader bar and relying on group members (the wisdom of crowds) to make this important selection.
The route to exponential growth (in terms of the number of groups) takes you directly through the neighborhood of lowering the leader bar and relying on group members (the wisdom of crowds) to make this important selection. Click To Tweet
A couple important phenomena make this true.
First, as your church grows it becomes more and more likely that the best potential leaders are actually people who you don't know and who are not yet in a group. A bold statement? Perhaps, but I've confirmed this everywhere in churches that have outgrown the staff's capacity to know who is attending. A very large leader pool exists outside the usual suspects. Figuring out who they are is near impossible with old school methodologies (like relying on the next wave of new leaders coming from inside existing groups).
Second, it turns out we are amazingly prewired to make intelligent choices about who the best leader candidate is (relative to the other adults in a circle) after even a few minutes conversation. Malcolm Gladwell described this phenomena in his best-selling book Blink. See also, 7 Assumptions that Shape My Small Group Strategy.
2. Small group pastor as small group champion vs senior pastor as small group champion.
Again, this choice is absolutely counterintuitive. After all, it does make sense that you've hired the small group pastor to build the small group ministry. Why shouldn't you rely on the small group pastor to cast vision for groups and encourage everyone to join one?
Unfortunately, the counterintuitive choice of placing the mantle of small group champion squarely on the shoulders of your senior pastor is what leads to a church OF groups and a thriving small group ministry. See also, 5 Things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry.
3. Signing up for a semester vs signing up for a 6 week test-drive.
Unconnected people are almost always infrequent attenders. They are also creatures of habit who have their pattern down when they do attend. They know where they prefer to park their car. Where to drop off their children. They know which door to come in. And where to sit.
Their experience is predictable and predictability is preferable to surprise or disappointment.
The best way to offer a next step to unconnected adults is to make the next step easy, obvious, and strategic. Easy steps are imaginable. Easy steps don't seem like a major ordeal. Easy steps are low commitment. Ordinary people can take easy steps.
The best way to offer a next step to unconnected adults is to make the next step easy, obvious, and strategic. Easy steps are imaginable. Easy steps don't seem like a major ordeal. Easy steps are low commitment. Ordinary people can… Click To Tweet
When the first step to getting connected requires a 10 to 13 week commitment, fewer unconnected people will take them. 6 week test-drives are preferable because they seem less invasive. Who can't do something new for 6 weeks? See also, How Would You Rate the First Steps out of Your Auditorium?
4. Choosing small group studies based on what already connected people are interested in vs choosing studies unconnected people are interested in.
Shouldn't you base the selection of your next small group study on what your satisfied customers tell you they want?
Think about it. You want to keep your satisfied customers happy. Doesn't it stand to reason that it's easier to keep a satisfied customer than get a new customer?
One key to this choice has to do with the percentage of your congregation (and crowd) who are unconnected. If you've already connected a very large percentage of your congregation it may be tempting to allow them to choose the next church-wide study. But the reality for most churches is that their true percentage connected (based on the number connected divided by their Easter adult attendance) is disturbingly low.
That said, if you want to connected the unconnected congregation (and crowd) you need to pay attention to what they are interested in and to what their perceived needs are.
5. Releasing new groups to decide on their next study vs preselecting the next study new groups will use.
Again, a counterintuitive choice. New groups ought to be allowed to choose what study to do next. Right? Wrong.
It turns out, new groups don't yet have the connective tissue to survive the trauma of a debate or disagreement about what study to do next. They will develop that strength of connection. But at the end of their first 6 weeks they don't yet have it.
New groups don't yet have the connective tissue to survive the trauma of a debate or disagreement about what study to do next. They will develop that strength of connection. But at the end of their first 6 weeks they don't yet have it. Click To Tweet
When you preselect a fitting next study for your newest groups you give them the best chance to survive into their third curriculum (which is often a predictor of long-term connection).
What do you think? Have a question? You can click here to jump into the conversation.
Image by Ann Fisher