Archives For Small Groups

man thinkingI’ve written quite a bit about small group pastors.  I’ve shared their most important contribution and what they need to know on day one.  I’ve talked about their most common rookie mistakes and biggest problems.

What I haven’t written about is what a small group pastor needs to be preoccupied with, obsessed with, in order to succeed in their role.  With an obvious reference to Patrick Lencioni’s fabulous book, here are the four obsessions:

Obsessed with connecting unconnected people.  Others may share this obsession, but if you’re going to build a thriving small group ministry it will be because there is an obsession with connecting unconnected people.  Far beyond any kind of vague awareness of their loneliness or sense that they are just a face in the crowd, this obsession is rooted in two certainties:

  1. Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again.
  2. The optimal environment for life-change is a small group.

Your obsession with connecting unconnected people should lead you to develop deep knowledge of the real numbers of unconnected people in your crowd as well as deep empathy…

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wave copyThree Very Important Discoveries for Small Group Pastors

  1. The first very important discovery for small group pastors is that there are no problem-free small group systems or models.  A breakthrough happens when leaders learn that every system comes with a set of problems and wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  See also, Breaking: No Problem-Free System, Model or Strategy.
  2. A second very important discovery for small group pastors is the realization that starting new groups is more productive than adding members to existing groups.  While this is counterintuitive for some, there is no doubt that launching new groups is the best way to grow the number of groups and the number of people connected.  Far better to train your small group leaders to fill their own group and focus your efforts on launching new groups.  See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Start New Groups and Skill Training: Top 10 Ways to Find New Group Members.
  3. Finally, a third very important discovery for small group pastors is that starting a wave of new groups (as opposed to one at a…

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Bus-MinistryIt was exciting news. My friend’s eyes lit up as he shared the exciting changes in the church he recently began pastoring. One of the neatest transitions the congregation had made was to begin small group meetings.

Small group ministry has been around for decades now. However, it is still a relatively new concept to many churches. The main idea is that people hold Bible studies in groups of 10-12 (depending on the context) for the purpose of Christian growth, edification, accountability and fellowship. Most small groups meet in homes in order to promote a family atmosphere where people are comfortable discussing God’s Word and its application to their lives without the formalities and intimidation of traditional classroom models.

For many churches, small groups balance the reception of Scripture from a congregational sermon setting with the discussion, response, and application of Scripture within the setting of mutual trust and encouragement.

As my friend and I were talking about his church’s move toward small groups, one burning question arose: how can a church guard their small groups from becoming institutionalized and ritualistic in the way that other church programs have devolved? (i.e. Sunday School, Bus…

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Alejandro_Guijarro01Sometimes things seem more complicated than they really are.  Small group ministry is truly one of those things.  It’s just not that complicated.

6 things you need to know about small group ministry:

  1. There is no problem-free small group strategy or system.  It really doesn’t matter what system, strategy or model you choose.  They all come with a set of problems.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  The hunt for a problem-free solution may be the number one cause of ministry delay.  See also, Breaking: No Problem-Free Small Group System, Model or Strategy.
  2. Your strategy or system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.  Don’t like the results you’re experiencing?  You must look at the design.  Results are directly related to design.  You may want to believe your results are a fluke; that they are related to the weather, or who was playing in the Super Bowl, or who won the election.  But your results are produced by the design.  Want different results?  Change the design.  See also, 5 GroupLife Dots You May Not Be Connecting.
  3. There is no substitute for your senior…

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“Coaching does not work here.”

I’ve heard that line many, many times.  Maybe you’ve said it yourself!  Very often, though, there are some incorrect assumptions that undermine coaching success.  See also, 5 Assumptions that Set Up Small Group Coaching to #FAIL.

There are also some real obstacles to building an effective coaching structure.

5 Obstacles to Building an Effective Coaching Structure

  1. Recruiting the wrong people.  Coaching is an essential ingredient of small group ministry that can only happen when you have the right people on the team.  You cannot build an effective coaching structure if you end up with anything less than high capacity people who are both fruitful and fulfilled in their role.  See also, 6 Essential Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach and How to Recruit a Small Group Coach: My “Secret” Formula.
  2. Asking your coaches to do the wrong things.  It’s not unusual for mall group coaches to be recruited to the role of an accountant or a hall monitor.  Instead of mentoring group leaders, caring for them in a way that encourages leaders to follow Christ, coaches end up being asked to ensure that rosters are up…

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baby-crawling1-199x300When you are a beginner, you do what beginners can do.  Think about when a newborn turns over for the very first time.  Or takes their first step.  Or puts a phrase together.

Clearly, there are things that you do when you are a beginner.

And then there are things you can only do once you have mastered the basics and are ready for what’s next.

I think there are small group ministry steps like that.

Actually, I think the best way to begin is to begin.  Sure, there is the temptation to carefully lay the groundwork and slowly build a solid foundation.  But I believe that long preparations come at the expense of unconnected people.  And unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?

So the best way to begin is to begin.  And build the bridge as you walk on it.

But once you’ve begun it will soon be time to take next steps.  Like what?  Like these!

Four Next Steps for Small Group Ministries:

Refine your preferred future.  You’ve given some thought already to…

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declaration of independenceThere are certain things, certain ideas, that are just true.  This was the case for Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers of the United States of America (Jefferson maintained they were self-evident).  And it is true for small group ministry.

With over three decades of small group ministry experience, I have found certain truths to be self-evident.  In the words of Captain Jack Ross in a Few Good Men, “These are the facts, and they are undisputed.”

5 small group ministry truths that I hold to be self-evident:

  1. A small group provides the optimal environment for the life-change Jesus intends for every believer.”  Circles, not rows.  A classroom environment is good for information, but the wrong model for authentic transformation.  The power of a group, not one-on-one. So much is gained when exposed to a variety of gifts.  See also, Groups of All Kinds and the Essential Ingredients for Life-Change.
  2. “Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again.”  Time really is of the essence.  Next fall or even next season is never soon enough for some.  There is always a window closing on some…

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Living RoomWhere will you take your small group ministry in 2015?  Have you thought about it?  Made any New Year’s resolutions?  Set any goals?

You may be one who makes New Year’s resolutions every year.  Lose weight.  Pay off credit cards.  Read through your Bible.

You may be one who always likes the idea of resolutions but never actually stops long enough to write them out and figure out how to act on them.

Or you might be one that just doesn’t see the merit in the idea.

I want to suggest that making New Year’s resolutions (or setting goals) for your small group ministry is actually very important.  In fact, I think the evidence is very strong that if you don’t think and dream and plan where you’d like to go you shouldn’t expect to get there.  See also, 10 Simple Things You Can Start Doing to Build a Thriving Small Group Ministry and 5 Things to Think about As 2014 Comes to a Close.

I believe the only way to get to where you really want to go is by conceiving of a preferred future and then intentionally acting to take…

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BuildingWhile there is definitely a list of complicated things you can start doing to build a thriving small group ministry, there is a list of simple things you can start doing.

It’s important to remember that simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy.  Easy is the opposite of hard or challenging.  Simple things are uncomplicated.  They can be done without a lot of prerequisite steps.  All of us have complicated things that need doing.  I call it “joining a game of pick-up-sticks in progress.”

What we’re talking about today are simple, uncomplicated, no excuses things you can start doing to build a thriving small group ministry.

Here are 10 simple things you can start doing:

  1. Invite your senior pastor to meet for breakfast, lunch or coffee.  If you have the relationship already, this will be easy.  If you don’t, you might have to develop a creative angle.  You can be your pastor’s source for life-change stories and you can help shape the belonging and becoming emphases, but only if you have the relationship.  See also, 6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the Small Group Ask.
  2. Spend one hour shaping a grouplife calendar for 2015….

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circlesAt Canyon Ridge we want to provide next steps for every Ridger and first steps for their friends.  The essence of the idea is that when you think about the various kinds of people who attend your church, each of the various kinds of people would require their own next step.

The simplest way to think about the various kinds of people would be to think about the differences between the never-miss-a-week type and the Christmas and Easter type.  Can you see that difference?  It’s probably very distinct.

Saddleback’s concentric circles illustrate the various kinds of people in an easy to understand way.  I’ve provided my own definitions and descriptions of their five categories in another post.  Again, the key is in understanding that each of the various category would require their own next step.  See also, Clue #2 When Designing Your Small Group System.

Here’s my prescription for designing next steps for everyone:

First, begin to assemble a set of characteristics for each of the kinds of people who attend your church.  For example, the congregation are “people that attend more regularly.  They may come 2 or 3 times a month. …

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Blind SpotI think we all know what a blind spot is…when it’s in our car.  It’s that spot that you can’t really see when you’re changing lanes or backing up.  If you’ve seen the movie Blind Side you know what it means in football (and you know the role of the left tackle).

What you may not realize is there are a few natural blind spots that affect small group ministries everywhere.

Think you might have a blind spot or two?  Here are 5 of the most common blind spots for small group ministries.

5 Blind Spots that affect small group ministries everywhere:

  1. Unnecessarily high entry standards for leaders.  Listen…we all want leaders who are truly capable of shepherding the members of their groups.  All of us dream of group leaders who will do to and for their members the things that will produce life-change.  All of us want that.  At the same time, entry levels that exclude the very people Jesus chose (Peter, Matthew and James), are Exhibit A of the blind spots that affect small group ministries everywhere.  See also, Leader Qualification: Raising the Bar, Lowering…

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Bible StudyWrestling with questions like, “Are we really making disciples?”  Or maybe, “Where are the mature disciples?”  I want to suggest that while those are valid questions, they might not be the most helpful questions.  In addition, asking the right questions is essential if you want to discover discover the best solutions.

W. Edwards Deming said, “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.”   Albert Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

The questions you ask determine whether you arrive at the discovery you seek.  The questions you ask determine whether you arrive at the best solution.

6 essential questions about making disciples and small group ministry

  1. What is a disciple?  This is a foundational question.  The answer to this question will inform what your next questions should be.  I find two Dallas Willard quotes helpful on this.  First, “As a disciple I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live my life if he were I.”   Not a bad definition.  And second,…

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