Is small group ministry the unsung hero in your church? You work hard at recruiting leaders to never have enough leaders. You move heaven and earth to place people in groups only to discover they don’t show up. You know that small groups are the most effective means to fulfilling the church’s mission of making disciples, yet you can rarely get “airtime” in the weekend service. If you feel stuck, there are some very good reasons why.
Fifteen years ago my groups were stuck. I had worked for seven years to connect all of our people into groups. After handpicking every possible leader that I knew, we only had 30% of our adults in groups. None of our groups were multiplying. Our weekend attendance continued to grow, but our groups did not. And then, something changed, I joined a coaching community.
In three weeks, we doubled our groups. Six months later we doubled them again! We went from having 30% in groups to having nearly 40% of our adults lead a group for at least one six-week series. When it was all said and done, we had 125% of our weekend attendance in groups and 13% of our adults leading on-going groups. What would that look like in your church?
Learn the best practices from over 1,500 churches. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Allen White has drawn some proven principles from a wide variety of churches: different denominations and styles of worship, regional differences, various sized churches, culturally and ethnically diverse, and even churches with Sunday school. If you are ready to double, triple, or quadruple your groups, these strategies will get you there. As a learning community, a group of five churches will work together to learn these principles and learn from each other.
Customize these strategies to your unique situation. Every church is different. There is something unique about you or else your church wouldn’t be necessary. Groups in your church won’t necessarily look exactly like groups in another church. You already have a history of groups. Maybe what you were doing didn’t get everybody into groups, but it worked for some of your folks. There is a way to get more people into groups without wrecking what you’ve already built. In monthly one-on-one meetings with Allen, you will adjust the best practices to fit your church’s needs and directions.
Interact with a community of like-minded small group folks. Wouldn’t it be great to spend time with people who speak your language. Your staff team can engage with you on groups, but not to the level of people who live, breathe, eat, and sleep groups like you do. The coaching community offers a regular time to discuss ideas about groups and learn from other churches. You won’t need to defend why small groups are important, everybody in this group already believes that.
Invest in Yourself. You can read books, attend conferences, or even seek an advanced degree — and maybe you should. But, for about the same money as a conference, you can receive a full year of coaching. Honestly, I wish every day was a conference. You get so filled with vision and so inspired, but when you get home, you soon discover that reality stinks. What if you could spread that conference out for an entire year and have the “speaker” walk alongside you as you build the future of your ministry? No conference will give you that.
2020 could be the year you connect more people into groups, make more disciples, equip more people for ministry, and reach your community like never before.
As we continue to make disciples, recruit leaders, and form groups, we are learning important things about what works and when those things work. While campaigns are great for recruiting new leaders, they are not a long term disciple making strategy. There are some exceptions, but for most churches campaigns help with the “Come and See” phase, but eventually you need to grow up your leaders and grow up your groups for the “Come and Die” phase and the “Go and Make Disciples” phase. Some of this can happen simultaneously, of course. The point is once the goal of connection is achieved, other goals need to fall into place. Instead of permanently “lowering the bar,” you need to “delay the requirements” meaning that at some point they’ll come back.
The key to a success small group ministry that produces disciples is a complete system. Often churches will take part of a system like using church-wide campaigns to connect their congregation and end up with partial results. The church gets a lot of people into groups very quickly, then watches those groups disappear almost as quickly. There is a better way.
To successfully produce disciples, the church needs a system approach. While the parts are good, the system is much better. This system includes:
1.How You Recruit Leaders. 2.How You Coach and Support Leaders. 3.How and When You Train Leaders. 4.When You Bring Back the Requirements. 5.How You Guide Your Groups with Curriculum and Training. 6.How You Integrate Personal Disciplines, Group Meetings, and Experiences.
Using on Part of the System Just Won’t Work.
Here are some resources to help you put the whole system together and successfully make disciples:
Last year I published a book that I literally started writing 25 years ago, Leading Healthy Groups: A Guide for Small Group Leaders. While I had led various groups prior to then, in 1994 our church launched groups for the very first time. Having gleaned from Dale Galloway, Rick Warren, Pat Sakora, Jeffrey Arnold and his Big Book of Small Groups and a few others, when it came to leading leaders, there were a lot of things to figure out. We could only prepare our leaders so far before we began to discourage them or scare them. The rest of their training came as they needed it.
Starting back then, I began collecting my leaders’ questions
as well as the answers I gave them. This was the start of the book. As our
groups multiplied, so did the questions. I added all of those to the file.
Then, when I served a larger church, we would survey our 400 or so group
leaders to see what problems they were facing or what issues were coming up in
their groups. I wrote a weekly blog with answers to the relevant questions for
all of our leaders. This was the start of allenwhite.org.
Train their coaches by giving them answers to
their leaders’ potential questions.
Create streaming video training to send out to
their group leaders.
Put the book directly in the hands of their
leaders so they have answers as their questions arise.
I’m not the first person to write a book for small group
leaders. In fact, originally, I didn’t even intend to write a book. But, as my
leaders asked questions, I saved the answers. Now, the answers are available to
you and your leaders.