Restoring Life to Small Group Ministry

Taking the right steps, in the right order, can resuscitate a fading small group ministry.

One of the greatest mistakes made by church leaders who want to reintroduce a small group ministry is that they make their first step an announcement from the pulpit. I have talked with dozens of pastors who took this well-intentioned step and it had catastrophic results because those who had a less-than-favorable experience felt disregarded, retired leadership felt dismissed and residual leadership (if any) felt disrespected. There is a critical pre-game plan that must be executed in private before going public. The life-saving practice of CPR offers a helpful pattern to follow.

When an unconscious or unresponsive person is being revived using CPR, it is vital for the person helping to follow the A-B-C steps for resuscitating a person:

  1. AIRWAY—Open the airway
  2. BREATHING—Breathe air into the opened airway
  3. CIRCULATION—Perform cycles of breaths & chest compressions to restore the victim

There are equivalents for each of these steps when it comes to restoring life to your small group ministry. As with actual CPR, it is very important to follow them in order. Many church leaders unknowingly engage these steps in the reverse order (C-B-A), which can have devastating consequences.

The first step in CPR is to make sure the victim's AIRWAY is clear from any obstructions. The one responding to the emergency is to look, listen, and feel for breathing. The parallel for those who are trying to resuscitate community life through small groups is to look for, listen to, and feel out your past, present, and future small group leadership. Conversation opens the airway.

I. AIRWAY—Learn from your past, present, and future small group leadership

  1. PAST: Set up conversations over coffee with those who were key leaders (e.g. coaches and longer-term leaders) and significant voices of influence in the past, and ask for their input. It is very important to do the following in each of your meetings:

    1. Be sincere in expressing appreciation for their past involvement and inviting honest feedback.
    2. Be humble and listen intently to what they tell you.

    3. Be discerning about who is supportive of you and the attempt to restart the small group ministry. There will be some who express how they are supportive of you but are not personally ready to be a part of re-introducing a small group ministry, and that is okay!

    4. Beware of those who do not seem to have anything positive to say and use their conversation with you to vent pure negativity. Thank them for their input and move on. It would do more harm to try to win them over. Your goal is not to gain everyone's acceptance and enthusiastic approval. Your goal is to try and get the RIGHT people on your team.

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