Small Groups Built to Last

A few changes in the approach to small-group ministry can make a big difference.

Often small groups become a place in the church, where "every person (or small group) does what is right in his own eyes." Too often small groups operate independently like nation states, where the individual groups choose curriculum, choose frequency of meeting, and refuse any governing or leadership structure but their own. Everything tends to move toward chaos.

If that's where your small group ministry is, then this is the time to build some health into the system. Here are a couple ideas to move your groups toward small group wellness:

  1. Launch a fresh small group campaign. There's nothing like fresh wave of small groups to energize your ministry.
  2. Align the launch with your weekend service. We recommend getting your pastor on board. Perhaps he could preach a six-week series on a topic, perhaps from the parables of Jesus. Use these six weeks to meet in homes as an entire church family during the series. Prepare a handout of discussion questions from the sermon as means for people to connect and grow in the six week campaign.
  3. Recruit hosts, not leaders. The bottleneck, always, in building health into your small group ministry is new leaders. Fresh troops are hard to recruit. But our strategy is not to recruit leaders; it's to recruit people who are simply willing to open their homes for a specific length of time. Instead, a couple weeks before the six-week preaching series is to begin, have your pastor make this invitation:

    "In a couple weeks, we are going to 'do church together' in a way we've never done before. For six weeks, I'm going to preach through a series titled 'Growing Deeper in Our Life Together.' We would like our entire church to meet in homes each week during this time—for only six weeks. Would you open your home to a group of 8 to 10 people for six weeks? If so, then sign up at our Host Home table in Fellowship Hall after the service."
    You'll be amazed how a simple change of language will open the floodgates of recruits.

    Are these Hosts leaders?

    Not yet. You're recruiting them to open their homes, and your team will need to coach them weekly through the six weeks as they serve coffee and get the discussion started. For resources on coaching leaders, you may want to consider our "Coaching Lifetogether" video series. The idea is recruit people on what they know they can do—open their homes and put on a pot of coffee.
  4. Publicly invite your church to the host homes. Before the the six week campaign, once you recruited enough Hosts, have your pastor publicly invite your church to attend a Host Home. Then, develop a plan to have your hosts invite their 8 to 10 people with a handwritten note or letter, also calling them before the first host home meeting.
  5. Roll the Host Home groups into ongoing small groups. This requires a strategy to identify leaders that emerge in the Host Homes during the six weeks. Look for additional articles to help you do this. Also make sure you have a clear curriculum plan moving forward and a way to coach your new leaders as they learn to lead.

Last, you might be wondering why an article on launching small groups is under the "Becoming Healthy" section. Here's a key point: It's often impossible to try to move existing, closed groups towards health. It's almost always best to create health by launch new groups and training your new leaders in your new ministry strategy.

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