DIY Small Group Ministry

DIY Small Group Ministry

Admittedly, I am not very handy. Some people can very intuitively tackle home projects and do a brilliant job. I fall more into the category of the guy who takes a partially disassembled object to a professional only to hear, “You tried to fix this yourself.” I just hang my head in shame. But, Youtube has changed all of that for me.

A few years ago my dad gave me a car. It was a Cadillac. It was fast. Shortly after my father gifted this car to me, the windshield wipers began to turn on involuntarily. Rain or shine, they would just start going. Screech, screech, screech, screech! I had to run the washer just to give them something to do. So, I searched Youtube.

The problem was that the windshield wiper motor cap had corroded. This was a common problem for older Caddies. I ordered the part. When the part arrived, I followed the step-by-step instructions created by a gentleman in Alabama. It was a little work, but I fixed it myself and saved some significant money. But, I couldn’t fix all of that car’s problems.

One day the engine started making a noise…a very loud noise. I took it into the shop. The recommended fix was a new engine at the low, low price of $10,000, which would have doubled the value of the car. Youtube was not the solution to this problem. Carmax was the solution to this problem. The Cadillac went to the junk yard. I bought a new-to-me car. My DIY efforts even with the best Youtube videos could only go so far.

If you are building your small group ministry by yourself, there are a lot of great resources available that will help you achieve a significant level of success. If you work hard with the right ideas, models, and tools, you can reach 30% in groups pretty easily. That’s not a bad spot, except it’s a common place to get stuck. DIY small group ministry will only get you so far. Here is the downside of the DIY model:

You don’t have time.

You probably wear multiple hats in your church. If your sole role is small groups and discipleship, you are blessed. I never had that singular focus in either of the churches I served on staff. Growing churches have growing needs, so you’ve got to do a lot of things. The problem is you can’t give enough of your attention to any one area for very long. It leaves you feeling that you’re not good at anything. I’ve lived that.

Going back to the home DIY analogy, an old joke goes that a husband says to his wife, “It’s on my list. You don’t have to remind me every six months!” You need more group leaders to have more groups. You need coaches to support your group leaders. You need training to equip your coaches and leaders. You need to create a self-produced church-wide campaign to recruit more leaders and get more people into groups. But, you also need to take the youth group to camp. You need to lead a mission trip. You need to meet with the copier salesman (real one for me). And, and, and… you don’t have time to focus on groups in the way you want. Frustrating.

You face too many choices.

The enemy of one good solution is two or more equally good solutions. Should I clean the oil stain on the driveway with baking soda or Dawn dishwashing detergent? (It works on those baby birds). Do I buy a product to clean it, and if so, which one? Youtube has too many solutions to my problem. I know, I should just try one. But, what if it doesn’t work? What if I make it worse? Can I just paint the driveway? Should I hire someone?

When it comes to DIY Small Group Ministry, you face a more substantial dilemma – there are so many good and effective models out there. Do you go with Free Market Groups like Church of the Highlands? Or should it be Sermon-based like Larry Osborne or Semester-based like Nelson Searcy? Should your church do a church-wide campaign like Saddleback? With so many people still worshipping at home, maybe a house church is more appropriate right now. Or, do we go deep into discipleship? But, which one – Dgroups with Robby Gallaty, Real Life Ministries, Rooted, 3DM, DisciplesMade? Where do you start? What do you do? And, when will you find time to research all of that?

Your church isn’t the expert’s church.

Of course, the problem with most models is that they work amazingly well at the author’s church, but you don’t work at that church. Every church is unique. Your church has a unique history, culture, geography, ethnicity, denomination, size, vision, etc. Churches in the same denomination are different. Churches in the same region are different. Imposing another church’s small group model on your church will give you a partial result, but it is not the custom solution that you need. There’s nothing wrong with the model per se. It’s what you do with the model.

What I’ve learned over the last 17 years in working with over 1,500 churches across North America is that no two churches are exactly alike. In fact, in each of the small group ministry coaching groups I lead, we end up with eight different versions of the best practices we explore together. And, that’s about right.

You don’t know what to do next.

There are more than a few tasks around my house that are undone (and on my list) simply because I don’t know how to start. I’ll be honest. I doubt my ability to pull it off. I haven’t found the right Youtube video to lead the way. I’m busy. When I get to the end of the day, I’m tired. It’s hard to think about it. And, a little more honesty, we’ve lived with the problem this way for a while, so we’re kind of used to it. The answer often is to avoid the issue.

You know that you need to do something different, yet if you’re like me, you’d also like to avoid making a mistake. Let me share something that helped me.

Sometimes you need a guide.

After working very hard at DIY Small Group Ministry for seven years, our church connected 30% of our adults into groups. Then, our groups got stuck. I had read all of the books that you’ve read. I attended as many conferences as I could. I interviewed other pastors to see what worked in their churches. But, our groups were stuck.

Then, I joined a coaching group. The coach gave me new ideas, but more than that it gave our church new focus. It was expensive — $5,000 for a year. My church didn’t spend $5,000 on anything. But, when my pastor gave the green light for me to join the group, not only did I know that I was going to get some much needed help, but I also knew that my pastor was serious about groups. What would it look like if your pastor was serious about groups?

After only three weeks in the coaching group, we doubled our groups. It had taken seven years to get 30% into groups, then in one day we had 60% in groups. And, six months later, we doubled our groups again and ended by with 125% in groups! With a seasoned guide to walk alongside us as we built groups, we achieved results unlike anything we ever dreamed.

Now you have a choice.

You can continue the DIY approach to small group ministry and dabble in different small group models until you find what works. It’s a lot of hard work, but you’ll make progress eventually. Or, you can engage an experienced guide to help you.

Now, you probably know that I coach churches on their small groups in both coaching groups and individual coaching. But, there are other coaches out there like my friends, Chris Surratt and Mark Howell. The Small Group Network offers different strategy sessions. Pick something that is right for you. Find the help you need. Invest in yourself and in the future of your small group ministry.

As Home Depot says, “You can do it. We can help.”

Related Resources

Small Group Ministry Coaching Group

Customized Individual Coaching

Church-wide Assessment

Episode 4: Elliot Diaz from Manna Church on Church Multiplication at Every Level

Episode 4: Elliot Diaz from Manna Church on Church Multiplication at Every Level

https://exponentialgroups.podbean.com/e/case-study-elliot-diaz-of-manna-church-on-multiplying-churches-campuses-groups-and-leaders/

This Podcast is available on: Apple Podcasts – Google Play – Spotify – Amazon Music/Audible – Pandora – Podbean – Tune In – iHeartRadio – PlayerFM – Listen Notes

Show Notes

Elliot Diaz has served at Manna Church, Fayetteville/ Fort Bragg since March 2013. He has served as the Small Groups Pastor, and is currently the Site Pastor of the Cliffdale Site and is a member of the Lead Team. Manna Church is a multi-site church of over 2800 people in weekly attendance led by Senior Pastor, Michael Fletcher. Elliot is a 19 year Army veteran, who currently serves as a Chaplain in the North Carolina National Guard.

Manna Church’s Multiply Conference

Analysis of the Free Market Small Groups Model by Mark Howell

Lifegiving Marriage Study

The Kingdom Study

Allen White’s Small Group Ministry Coaching Group

Curriculum Production by Allen White Consulting

Case Study: Vertical Church, West Haven, Connecticut

Case Study: Vertical Church, West Haven, Connecticut

Vertical Church is an over 30 year old church in West Haven, Connecticut. The worship attendance is 1,600 adults in a diverse congregation made up of 38 different nationalities. No one ethnicity is dominant. Prior to implementing the principles found in Exponential Groups, the church had 34 groups following the Free Market model of groups.[

“The verbiage in the Northeast is small groups don’t work here,” says Randal Alquist, Discipleship Pastor. “Nobody wants to open up their houses. You’re not going to get them to join. We’re not a front porch community. We’re a back deck community with fences. We’re going into our backyards and have our own little space.”

After digesting the content of Exponential Groups, the church was challenged to add a new approach. “My biggest revelation was this idea that people are already in groups,” Alquist said. “There are distinctives we want to accomplish within a group. We want people praying together, people gathering together for community and to draw closer to Jesus. We’re activating faith together in the group. If we know that’s happening, and they’re attending church regularly and serving once in a while, then we know they’re growing. This revolutionized my approach in how to talk about groups and promote them.”

Previously, the church sought out people with high qualifications to lead a group. The new leaders were given a 52-page manual they were expected to follow. Alquist says, “We started giving people permission to jump in. We’re asking for people who love people and love God. We’re not asking for elders here. We want people who are willing to facilitate a healthy environment where connections can happen.” The 52-page manual was replaced with a 10-page manual and a short briefing meeting at the church. Training videos were created to answers common questions from the small group leaders. Each new leader received a coach to help them.

In their most recent alignment series, Vertical Church had over 90 groups with 920 group members. Additionally, another 240 people are involved in eight short-term Growth Groups at the church. “This approach opened up a world to us,” Alquist enthused. “We knew community was happening on the periphery, but we’ve been able to look at all of these little communities in our church and identify some basic things for those leaders to start practicing and to make sure it’s happening. It’s been amazing.”


Allen White helps Take the Guesswork Out of Groups. We offer booksonline coursescoaching groups, consulting, and curriculum writing and production. [

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