10 Powerful Benefits of a Thriving Small Group Ministry

By Mark Howell

SproutsHave you figured this out already?  Still arm wrestling with the usual suspects over whether the return on investment is worth the cost?

Here are 10 killer benefits of a thriving small group ministry:

  1. Life-change happens best in small groups. You might have a killer weekend worship service with powerful teaching and inspiring worship, but you still need to know that “the optimal environment for life-change is a small group” because life-change happens best in circles, not rows.  See also, Essential Ingredients for Life-Change andAndy Stanley on Creating a Culture that’s All About Circles.
  2. Small groups make churches personal.  Whether your church averages 150 or 1500, if I can slip into a back row and then leave without sharing life with a person…your church is too large to not incorporate a small group experience.  Yes, it’s still true that a certain kind of person or a particular stage in life makes a toe-in-the-water easier when you can be anonymous.  But the research is in.  The desire to find a few good friends is on the rise and loneliness is increasing.  See also, Don’t Miss These Two Huge Barna Findings for Small Group Ministries.
  3. Small groups provide a nearly unlimited leadership development pipeline.  What if I told you that your congregation and the crowd that joins you on special days like Easter or Christmas Eve is full of potential leaders?  In my experience, the same churches that tell me they’ve been praying for God to send workers for the harvest really just haven’t learned how to identify the  leaders God has already sent!  See also, 5 Honest Thoughts about Small Group Ministry and My Top 3 Ninja Ideas for Recruiting Small Group Leaders.
  4. Off-campus small groups provide nearly unlimited space at optimum times.  Can’t afford to build?  Need to reach a much larger community than you could ever fit on campus at one time.  Homes, apartments, and coffee shops offer the space you need to have more adults in small groups than you have in your weekend services.  See also, The Four Biggest Obstacles Standing in the Way of Starting New Groups*
  5. “Come over to my house” is a much easier invitation than ”come with me to church.”   Off-campus small groups become increasingly more important as the transition to a post-Christian culture accelerates.  While there certainly was a time when an invitation to “come with me to church” was welcomed and even expected…those days are gone.  What remains?  ”Come over.”  See also, 5 Essential Practices of a 21st Century Small Group Ministry and The X-Factor Is Near the Edge.
  6. Small groups provide the best opportunity for one-anothering.  If you want to be known for the way you love one another…you need to emphasize being part of a small group.  The idea that I can receive or give the kind of personal care commanded in the one-anothers while isolating myself from others isn’t anchored in reality.  See also, The Primary Activity of the Early Church.
  7. Small groups can provide a sense of family for many whose biological family lives far away.  Unlike generations past, it is increasingly more common for adults to find themselves living far away from their biological family.  Add the growing number of broken homes and dysfunctional families and you have a snapshot of the 21st century.  A small group, the right kind of small group experience can play a role in providing a sense of family.  See also,The End in Mind for My Ideal Small Group.
  8. I can ask questions in a small group.  Dialogue is one of the key ingredients of life-change.  If every spiritual experience I have is about listening, if it’s all about one-way communication…I’m going to miss one of the most important developmental aspects of a growing faith.  See also, Essential Ingredients for Life-Change.
  9. Small groups make it possible for more people to be cared for between Sundays.  Genuine care is demonstrated when my needs are known without a call to the church office.  A network of small groups provides the delivery system for that kind of care.  See also,Do You Know This Game-Changing Connection Secret?
  10. Small groups provide an ever expanding network for communication and impact.  This is a huge benefit!  There is a vast difference in the response to an announcement from the platform and a personal invitation.  When this network for communication and impact is activated, reach becomes exponential.

photo credit: Dendroica cerulea

Mark Howell

Mark Howell is the founder of SmallGroupResources.net, committed to helping churches launch, build, and sustain healthy small group ministries. He's also the Pastor of Discipleship Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church.  Having served as small group pastor at Woodlands Church and Lake Avenue Church, Mark is a seasoned veteran with experience in both the contemporary and the traditional church. In addition, he served as a consultant with Lifetogether and as a host for the Purpose Driven Campaign Coaching programs. You can read Mark's blog at www.markhowelllive.com or follow him on twitter.