Archives For Small Groups

Arnold Kiburi, pastor of small groups at Karura Community Chapel in Nairobi, Kenya, and the leader of a Small Group Network huddle in that city, was my guest recently and we talked about his 11 years of leading small group ministries in several churches.

Among the many topics we entertained was the issue of transparency. Arnold’s pointed question was, “Are you transparent, or are you telling people what they should do while you are not walking on the same road?” His point was this – he had met many small group ministry leaders who looked at small groups as an occupation. Their job was to help the congregation, but they were not in a small group themselves.

Rick Warren, senior pastor at Saddleback Church, is one of the strongest champions of small groups. He regularly shares how his own small group has been a source of comfort, encouragement, support and unconditional love. In the challenges of life, such as the tragic loss of his son a few years ago, Rick said that he found solace and embracing love in the members of his small group who encircled him and his wife through some of the…

Continue Reading

This time of year can be a good time to evaluate where you are as a small group ministry and begin to pray and cast vision for change. One of the areas I think needs to be the most fluid when it comes to change is the overall structure of how you do small groups at your church.

Are the people in your church excited about small groups?

Are you launching new small groups on a regular basis?

Are you raising up new apprentice leaders and (or) small group leaders on a regular basis?

If you answered no to any of these questions, it might be time to take a solid look at your structure and begin to make some changes. Here are five of the most popular small group structures to help guide you in your change-making process.

HOST Groups

“Can you open a bag of Doritos and press play on a DVD player?” I once heard a pastor ask that question to promote HOST Groups, and while these groups are a good easy step into small group leadership, they can also be a good easy step for quick growth. HOST Groups are often recruited in…

Continue Reading


I’m new at this.

I took on leadership of small groups at my church in early 2017. Immediately, I signed up for The Lobby – my first small group conference experience! It was exciting – and a bit intimidating, to be honest. I felt like the new kid in school. But I came home feeling encouraged, equipped, and motivated to act.

Our church has functioning small groups, but a change in leadership always offers a chance to reexamine vision and values. There is much I don’t know about leading a small group ministry – but certain principles translate easily. Since I’m probably not the only one who is starting from scratch, here are a few basic principles to remember when starting fresh:

1. Pray. Duh. This seems to be a no-brainer, but truth be told, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forged ahead with some great ministry idea – all on my own strength. I’m a leader – my default is to get things done – so I have to remind myself to pray first for discernment and wisdom. I asked God to show me the right people for a leadership team; if I am going to preach with integrity that we are #bettertogether, I need…

Continue Reading



I recently had an aha moment.

I realized I had made significant personal growth in a particular area of my life. As this sunk in, I physically felt taller, and heard that little voice inside my head say . . . Well done. Good job. It was worth the effort. I felt great.

However a deeper impact came when my husband verbalized the same positive messages. When he said the words I felt proud, positive, stirred up, ready to take on a new challenge!

Celebrating a person’s growth; whether it be increased effort, a job well done, reaching a set goal or their willingness to serve God and others is always worth doing because of this effect. We honor what the person has done but the celebration also acts as a catalyst to build self-belief and impart a desire to take on the next challenge.

So how can we celebrate and honor those who lead in our small group ministry? Here are a few ideas you might like to try.

Share the stories

If a leader is doing something creative or different in their group and it is reaping rewards for group life, talk about it! Whether it’s in a…

Continue Reading

Baptism at Saddleback

Many people came through the front doors of our churches during Easter – and many people were saved. But, as you already know, not all of those who come during Easter return the following week. And not everyone who gets saved during Easter services grows spiritually either.

So how do we make sure those who attend our Easter services return, become active in our churches and get involved in ministry?

Keeping the fruit of your ministry is as important as winning the fruit in the first place.

What did the early Church do after big evangelistic harvests?

  • They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said (Acts 14:21-22 NIV).
  • Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But Paul…

    Continue Reading


One of the most common excuses I hear from people for not being able to attend or host a small group is, “I don’t know what to do with my children.” This particular issue, although it requires a little bit of thought, should not be used as excuse to disengage from small group community.

Biblical disciples are formed in biblical community. Children are a blessing from God, not a deal-breaker for your own spiritual formation. At first, the childcare issue can look like an obstacle to being involved in groups. However, like many dynamics in our life, it is another key opportunity for us to ask ourselves, “Do we really believe we need to be plugged into biblical community?” If the answer is a resounding “yes,” (and I hope that it is) then our attention and energy shifts away from waiving the white flag towards focusing on practical solutions.

As a Small Groups Pastor, I’ve always tried to identify groups in our church directory that are “child-friendly” so parents know what their options are but this is only the first step (Note: Groups that are marked “child-friendly” in our groups directory are facilitated by hosts…

Continue Reading

Exponential Groups Allen WhiteExponential Groups is less of a strategy or model and more of a focus and an attitude. Your focus determines your result. Exponential results require exponential thinking. What are you thinking about?

1. Are You Focused on Group Members?

If your focus is connecting people into groups, you are not thinking exponentially. Your groups are growing by addition. Think about it. You handpick the leaders and train them. You collect signup cards or have a website to connect people into groups. It’s not a bad way to go, except that you work hard to start a few groups at a time or to plug people into groups only to realize the leader doesn’t call the prospective members, the new members don’t show, or they do show but don’t stick with the group.

Now, you can arrange the connections by geography, affinity, age, hobby, and so on, but let’s face it: Growth by addition is a lot of work with very few results. Just the administrative task of processing all of those signup cards is nightmare enough. Then you face the heartbreaking…

Continue Reading

Infrastructure: ˈinfrəˌstrək(t)SHər/
the physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a community, society, or organization.

When we think of “infrastructure,” we may think of things like roads, sidewalks, power lines, and pipes for water. These are the structures needed to bring people and power to an area, like your house. Without infrastructure, you would have to walk to a well to get your water, and walk through the field (or a desert) to get back to your house. You’d have no power to heat the water when you got back (unless you started a fire), and no way to watch Netflix with the kids. You might have to actually *gasp* spend non-screen-time with your kids.

It’s possible to operate your home with no infrastructure, but it’s not the most efficient or effective idea.

When it comes to small groups in our churches, infrastructure is incredibly important because it brings people and power to the ministry. It’s possible to operate without infrastructure, but it’s not efficient or effective. It’s possible for you, the small group ministry point person, to do everything it takes to provide relational support to the groups under your care. It’s…

Continue Reading


It is a pleasant fiction to think that a small group ministry can soar in a church by delegating all of the responsibility to an associate pastor. A similar line of reasoning would contend that the lead pastor doesn’t need to worship because they have hired a worship leader to do that. Of course, nobody would make a statement like that about worship, but often we send a similar message about discipleship when lead pastors don’t position themselves as the small group champions.

If a culture of disciple-making groups is going to take root in a church, it’s critical for the lead pastor to champion the cause.

There are many factors to support this paradigm, but I’d briefly like to share three realities for lead pastors and discipleship . . .

1. Jesus was the Groups Champion of the New Testament Church

Jesus was the greatest small group leader ever. He took 12 people and launched the fastest-growing, most…

Continue Reading

As an associate pastor who has oversight of small groups at my church, I see a large part of my responsibility as assisting the lead pastor to be at the center of our discipleship strategy. This is more of an art than a science, because the lead pastor has many demands on their schedule that no other staff or leader has.

In order to position the lead pastor properly, you must find ways to get beneath the surface of systems, memos, and bullet points. You have to be creative at keeping the small group vision connected to your lead pastor’s life in a real way while they’re navigating board meetings, budgets, conflict resolution, local community relations, and more.

Here are three ideas to engage your lead pastor as the small group champion:

1. Develop a Church-Wide Alignment Series

Chances are, your lead pastor loves to communicate. They typically have a topic brewing inside of them that they desire to deliver to everyone’s heart. Tap into their passion by helping them to create a corporate immersion into their message.

In the last two years, I’ve worked with my lead pastor to create two of these experiences with his own…

Continue Reading

Here in America the recent election has caused disruption between and within communities. It reminded us that differences in opinions can grow into disruptions of community. Small Group Network’s international membership is likely not experiencing this in the same way. But we are all familiar with the lurking questions that create dissonance.

The dynamic of divisiveness is universal. New Testament writers frequently address disagreeing groups and coach them to right relationship. Rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, groups that disagree on specific teachings teachings — they are all encouraged and equipped to handle these situations.

Differences of opinion, especially heated or hostile differences, cause divide. It might be temporary, but there is always a risk that it intensifies. Sometimes it grows deep and wide enough that it cuts off relationship and communication. Divides can break up friendships and marriages. They can also lead to a Christian community’s splintering.

What causes a difference of opinion to grow into a disruption of community?

Several factors that lead opposing points of view to disrupt relationship. Help your leaders monitor these influences whenever possible.

It’s personal.

Disagreeing about a theoretical idea is easier than a personal concern. Imagine a small group of…

Continue Reading


The Christmas season that starts with Thanksgiving and goes through New Year’s Day is pretty intense for most of us. (Or does the season start at Halloween now?) Office parties, family gatherings, school functions, church services, shopping, shopping, shopping, cooking, cooking, cooking – boy, the list goes on. With all of this activity going on, should your group take a break? Well, a lot depends on your group. Here are a few things to think about:

1. Ask your group. While some people feel that they can barely come up for air during the holidays, others might experience a great deal of loneliness. Even though it’s a busy time, most people are still working and going about their daily routine. Before you decide to cancel, see what your group wants to do. If three or four people would like to meet, then you might consider meeting. Please note, however, that if your schedule has gone berserk, then it might be good to take a break for your own sake. But make sure that your group is taken care of. Will someone spend Thanksgiving alone? Maybe a group member could include them in…

Continue Reading