Launching Community

Before you start a small-group ministry make sure you believe in it.

So many of us have been there—you wake up in the middle of the night feeling pulled toward starting a small group ministry at your church. But by morning you still have no clue how to go about it.

I'll tell you this: If you're a pastor wondering how to go about launching a small group ministry, start by asking yourself, "Is a small group ministry something I truly value and can excite others with?" This is crucial because values manifest themselves not in your belief system but in your behavior. If your hands and feet are not sitting somewhere where you are sharing, it will be difficult for you to have conviction about the ministry from the pulpit, in your Sunday school class or in your own small group.

Then you should ask yourself, "Do I really believe in doing life together?" Here's what I mean by this: Pastors and teachers often have trouble understanding and appreciating the value of small group ministry because they are used to telling people what to do versus talking about what they should do. Telling people what to do in community versus doing life in community is night and day. Whether or not the pastor feels the need for community doesn't change the fact that there is a need. And if you build it, they will come.

Think about this: The early church in the first 300 years did not even have temple court. It was all house to house. In modern-day American churches, we have given up on house to house and have leaned primarily on temple courts or class to class. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say "class to class." It says house to house, and that implies back in the community—not on the campus. Are you willing to take a fresh look at the biblical model in Acts and the other passages in the Bible that can't be lived out in the context of the Sunday morning message?

If you truly believe that life change and spiritual formation happen best in small settings, you can launch a small group ministry quite easily because of systems already in place. While it may seem overwhelming, there's not a lot of labor involved. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Preach on it and ask people during the service if they would be willing to host a small group Bible study in their home.
  2. Gather those people in your home the next week, and you have your volunteer team. You can launch a small group ministry in 30 days or less with the resources that are available. You can buy the ingredients and make a gourmet meal or you can order take out. You can make home movies or rent for the video store. A pastor does not need to create his or her own materials. Much is available.
  3. Be willing to lead from weakness. Here is an example: John led a group. On the third night there, a question was asked and John couldn't answer. He couldn't answer another question, and another. Finally, he confessed that he had been busy that week and hadn't done the lesson. He was embarrassed and sorry and he couldn't fake it. He promised to do better next week. Everyone was drawn to John because he was honest. John realized the leader does not have to be perfect.

Small groups are the spiritual family system of the future. I know this, because as we see throughout Scripture, this was God's idea first.

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