Allen White is the author of four books on small group ministry including Exponential Groups: Unleashing Your Church’s Potential. After serving churches in California and South Carolina, he has coached over 1,500 churches in the last 17 years. Allen also serves as the outsourced Life Group Pastor for a church in Lansing, Michigan. He and his wife, Tiffany have been married for nearly 22 years. They have four children ranging in age from 8 to 20. And, last summer they moved back to his hometown of Topeka, Kansas after being away for 38 years.
In This Episode, Allen Answers Listener Questions About…
In a perfect world, the sole focus of your church beyond the weekend service would be groups. You do not live in that world. But, part of the reason you don’t have more groups is because you are not sending a clear message about groups…to your senior pastor.
Your Church Cares About What Your Pastor Cares About
Churches with a passion for evangelism are led by an evangelist. Churches with in-depth teaching are lead by a teacher. Churches with deep care and compassion are led by a pastor. Your pastor’s passions are expressed in the life of the church. The church cares about what your pastor cares about.
In most churches, the weekend service is the biggest thing that the church does in a week. It’s not necessarily the most important thing the church does, but it is the biggest. The weekend service has a lot of moving parts. For pastors who preach every week, it’s like having a term paper due on a weekly basis. There are production meetings and rehearsals. There are theme planning sessions and set design. And, don’t forget to fill the fog machine. The weekend service is a big deal.
But, why does everything have to be about the weekend? If your weekend service wasn’t strong, then the offering wouldn’t be strong, then you wouldn’t have a job, so don’t go there. This doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario. Your pastor could care about groups, but you need to give your pastor reasons to care about them.
Your Pastor Cares About a Lot of Things
Pastors care about reaching the lost, caring for the flock, making disciples, connecting with the community, raising a budget, wrangling with board members, guiding staff, communicating the message, building buildings, raising up the next generation, and yes, gathering in groups. (If you don’t think so, then, remember who hired you.) Research shows that small groups offer effective solutions to everything your pastor cares about – Outreach, Evangelism, Attendance, Giving, Disciple-making, Leadership Development, Serving – you name it. The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Groups clearly and concisely builds the case for you.
For most pastors, there is a dominant theme that rises to the top: teaching, outreach, evangelism, compassion, service, leadership, care, or something similar. You heard this in point one. Groups will never replace this dominant theme in your pastor’s heart and mind, and that’s okay.
I’ve heard small group pastors/directors complain about not being able to get their senior pastor on board with groups. Here’s the deal – it’s your senior pastor’s boat. You don’t need to worry about getting your pastor on board. So, forget about nagging your way to success. There are ways to raise the value of groups in your church with your pastor’s full participation.
Align Groups with What Your Pastor Cares About
It’s time to get on board your pastor’s boat. What is the main focus of the next sermon series? What is your pastor’s passion? How can groups support where your pastor wants to go?
There is a small group curriculum for practically every sermon series a pastor could think of. If there’s not, then you can create one.
If your pastor is an evangelist, then propose a felt-needs series for members to invite their neighbors. They can share the gospel in a low pressure environment.
If your pastor is a teacher, then give your people more of what they want by creating curriculum based on your pastor’s teaching.
What is your pastor the most passionate about? Linking groups with where your pastor is headed is far more effective than trying to convince your pastor to follow your direction. A church-wide campaign aligned with your pastor’s passion will help you recruit more leaders and launch more groups than you’ve ever had. Your pastor is interested because the teaching goes further. The people are more interested, because you’re giving them more of what they already want.
Cast Vision Through Storytelling
Pastors need fresh stories for their sermons (and, their kids need a break). Start collecting stories from your groups. Ask them what God is doing in their groups. Ask them about challenges that group members have overcome through the support of the group. Ask them about their own reluctance to lead initially and how God has blessed them. These stories can come from surveys, interviews, or conversations. Ask your leaders and group members for stories.
Capture these stories either in print or on video or both. As you build your library of stories, find out where your pastor is headed with the next sermon or series. Some pastors plan a year in advance. Other pastors aren’t sure what they’re preaching this coming Sunday. Either way, your story library will be a huge asset to your pastor. And, since it’s a small group story, the story will cast vision for groups. Every pastor needs stories. Become your pastor’s go-to story source.
No one in your church should care more about small groups than you. That’s why you do what you do. You have to manage your passion for groups or else it can spill over into anger or resentment. Then, passion becomes self-defeating.
If it feels like groups are on the backburner, it’s your job to move groups to the front burner. Think of every possible angle where you can launch groups. Every event should launch groups. Every sermon series could start groups. Every holiday offers an excuse for groups – Mother’s Day for women’s groups, Father’s Day for men’s groups, Valentine’s Day for couples groups, Columbus Day for singles groups (They’re searching!).
God is using your pastor to lead your church. How can you support the direction your pastor is heading with groups? If you can’t figure out how to connect where your pastor is headed with groups, then give me a call. Here’s my cell: Nine-49-235-7428.