Five GroupLife Dots You May Not Be Connecting

By Mark Howell

DotsDo you have small group ministry issues you just can’t figure out?  Feel like there are just some dots that don’t connect to anything?  I think most of the time, they actually do connect.  We just miss the connection between the way we’re doing things and the results we’re experiencing.

I love this line from Andy Stanley:

“Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you’re currently experiencing.”

If you don’t like the results you’re currently experiencing, it’s time to start connecting some dots.

Here are four grouplife dots you may not be connecting:

I can’t find enough leaders…is most often connected to the method you’re using to identify and recruit them.  Setting the leader qualifications too high can play a role here too, but leaderscarcity is almost always related to inadequate leader identification tactics.  If you’ve settled for announcing your upcoming new leader training course, waiting for volunteers or relying on the apprentice model, you really are set up for disappointment.

Solution: Begin building in easier ways for potential new leaders to put their toes in the water.  The HOST strategy combined with a church-wide campaign is a great way to offer a six week test drive that often results in a long-term commitment.  A small group connection allows potential leaders to be identified by their peers in a very affirming way.  See also,HOST: What Does It Mean and How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection.

Coaching doesn’t work here…is connected to the way you’ve designed the coach’s role and who you assign them to.  The primary reason coaching doesn’t work is that the coach’s job description produces accountants who count things instead of developers who shape people.  Right on the heels of this primary reason is that coaches are too often assigned to experienced leaders who no longer need the only thing their coach is trained and releases to do (i.e., teach better technique).

Solution: Re-design the coach’s role to focus on development.  Keep in mind that whatever you want to happen in the lives of group members has to be experienced first by the leaders of your groups.  The role of the coach ought to be about producing the kinds of experiences in the lives of your leaders that you want your leaders to give to the members of their groups.  See also, What is the Role of the Coach? and How to Implement Coaching for Existing Leaders.

People are too busy to commit to a small group…is connected to two important dots.  First, the way you’ve designed the menu of opportunities and the way you describe grouplife.  These are difficult dots for churches who pride themselves in providing an excellent buffet of opportunities.  The advantage of a limited selection is that it is easier to provide next steps that are easy, obvious, and strategic.  Second, the way grouplife is described is everything.  When grouplife is described as anything less than an essential ingredient for life-change, it becomes a non-essential and optional ingredient in the congregation.

Solution: Intentionally shorten the menu and perfect the way you talk about grouplife (verbally, in print and on the web).  It may have to happen over 24 months, but the sooner you get to the place where next steps are designed to be easy, obvious and strategic, the sooner you will begin to see greater commitment.  Perfecting the way you talk about grouplife clears up confusion about what’s important.  See also, A Plated Meal Leads to a Church OF Groups and Create Connecting Steps that Are Easy, Obvious, and Strategic.

Small groups don’t make disciples…is directly connected to the way you’ve defined a disciple and the way you’ve designed the small groups in your system.  If your small group ministry isn’t making disciples, the reason is embedded in the way your ministry is designed.

Solution: If there is ever a time to take seriously Andy Stanley’s statement that your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you’re currently experiencing…this is the time.  Give adequate thought to what you’re trying to produce.  Carefully describe a new preferred future.  Re-design your system to eliminate any steps that don’t lead to the future that you’ve chosen.  See also, Four Leading Indicators of Small Group Ministries that Make Disciples,Choosing What Not to Do, and 5 Non-Negotiables that Define True Small Group Ministry Success.

If you’re counting…that’s four dots.  I just stumbled upon a fifth this week.  Too important to add in with the other four.  I’ll be posting tomorrow about #5.  Don’t want to miss it?  You can sign up for my updates right here.

photo credit: Heartlover1717

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.