Before I began consulting churches about small groups, I had the privilege of leading the small-group ministry at LifeChurch.tv, one of America's largest churches. Through my experience as a consultant and my time at LifeChurch, I have enjoyed hundreds of conversations with small-group ministry champions and leaders. One of the most frequent questions I hear from these ministry leaders is "What can I do to get my pastor to support small groups?"
Regardless of how things currently are between the senior pastor and the small-group director, these tips can improve and maintain the relationship. If you’re a small-group ministry leader, you’ll learn several things you can do. And if you're a senior pastor reading this looking for ways to improve on your end, you'll learn great tips, too. The key to having a healthy and productive relationship between small-group ministry leaders and senior pastors is one word: communication.
Communication always has two sides. I'm currently a senior pastor and I've been a small-group ministry leader, so I've experienced both sides. Because of that, I can address both sides of the relationship. My goal is to improve communication between pastors and group ministry leaders so group ministry effectiveness is maximized.
Small-Group Ministry Leaders
Regardless of your title (small-group pastor, champion, director, etc.), if you are the person responsible for group ministry in your church, this portion of the article is for you. To improve communication with your senior pastor, I urge you to implement the following suggestions.
1. Put yourself in your lead pastor's shoes.
Ask the following questions regarding your senior pastor. Is my pastor in a group? Does my pastor speak about groups at weekend services? If you answered "yes" to either or both of these questions, it's likely that your pastor is supportive of small groups.
Ask yourself, is my pastor stressed? I'm willing to bet that you answered "yes" to this question. Most pastors are worked hard, spread thin, stretched, attacked, and criticized. You may feel like your pastor doesn't support your ministry because he or she doesn't pay as much attention to your ministry as you'd like. Keep in mind, however, that senior pastors face the same kind of stresses that CEOs face. On top of that pressure, senior pastors are Satan's favorite targets. Our spiritual enemy wants us to think less of our pastors. Don't add to your pastor's stress by falling into Satan's trap.
2. Get inside your pastor's head.
The only way for you to truly understand your pastor is to seek honest answers to honest questions. Interview your pastor. Spend time with your pastor figuring out what aspects of biblical community make his or her eyes light up. Use the following questions as a template for your interview:
- From your perspective, why do we have small-group ministry?
- What is your desire for our small-group ministry?
- What are your favorite biblical passages and/or stories related to small groups?
- In your mind, what will successful small-group ministry in our church look like in 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years?
- How will I know the small-group ministry is successful in your eyes?
- Are there any group strategies or approaches that you believe won't work in our cultural context?
- Are there any group strategies or approaches that you think will work in our cultural context?
- Does our church need or want a small-group ministry that grows quickly or one that grows steadily?