The Best Ways to Sustain Your New Small Groups--Part 2

Keep groups going after the 40 days of purpose.

Starting something new is often easier than keeping it going—especially going well. Many small group pastors and champions especially feel this way after the completion of 40 Days of Purpose. People are connected like never before and rising to new spiritual heights, but you question how you are going to sustain this mountaintop experience.

In Part 1, Brett Eastman, CEO and Founder of Lifetogether, Inc., shared how connecting with and celebrating leaders, prayerfully finding a new small group champion, and good planning are essential components of keeping your small group going strong. Part 2 continues to highlight the musts for small group success.

5. Preview, Select, and Promote Your New Small Group Series.

A six-week study gives people only a taste of the 5 biblical purposes. Folks, though, need to be transformed by the purposes, and that happens only over time. So start previewing curriculum that will do just that.

Once you've selected your new curriculum, you have to promote it. Instead of sending individuals out to get their own materials, collectively order the materials. This requires some upfront capital from church, but purchasing these—and then having people pay for them when they pick them up—makes it easier for people to stay connected.

6. Access Cheap or Free Resources and Tools.

Many great tools are available online. Check out www.purposedriven.com for some downloadable workbooks for their Day 41 curriculum. Another great site is www.zoomerang.com. It's a low-cost resource that provides all kinds of questions to ask your leaders regarding their small groups' future plans. 

Another website is www.smallgroups.com, which has great ideas, stories, and strategies for small groups. Finally, the small group section at http://www.christianitytoday.com/smallgroups has hundreds of practical articles and stories out there for leaders and small group champions. Both sites are free.

7. Offer End-of-Year Leader/Host Training.

Rally your leaders for a time of fun, fellowship, and small-group vision—and make sure pastoral leadership is present. You can either send out nice invitations or casual e-mails. To ramp up the excitement, do something creative—like a cookie exchange or a White Elephant party. If you throw the party on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon, you'll wind up with a two-and-a-half or three-hour block of time.

If you don't use training material, use the time to listen to and love on them. Go over the "Four P's" to get your conversation going: praises, problems, plans, and prayer. Often, small group leaders share similar concerns and are able to work out their problems together. From those conversations, you'll also learn where you need to spend time training.

8. Leverage the Weekend Services.

The greatest communication tool that you have in your church is the weekend services. If the pastor isn't casting a vision for groups, people aren't going to understand what the groups are about and the direction the church is headed.

This is also a great time to tell the congregation what God is doing in your small groups. One small group champion regularly met with his senior pastor to share small group stories, and the pastor would often use these stories in sermons to generate interest in small groups.

To get stories from an even wider circle, solicit stories in your bulletin or newsletter.

9. Identify, Train, and Develop a Coaching Staff.

Use the same five characteristics of small group champions to identify coaches: 1. loyal to the senior pastor; 2. part of the small groups community; 3. the gift and experience of leadership; 4. character that is above reproach, and 5. a growing "lock," or a deepening relationship, with God.

A great place to look is at the people already doing the job--without the title. Go after people who have hosted, had a positive 40 Day experience, and have proven gifts of leadership.

One technique for finding coaches is a "leadership connection." In real time, gather all your leaders together. While they are together, ask them to nominate a "relative" coach who could shepherd the rest of them--someone whom they respect. Then you can ask that coach who he or she thinks would be a great future coach. In essence, the team chooses the coach for the team. Many people who receive this nomination feel honored, making it more difficult for them to turn down.

10. Attend a Small Group Conference.

There are several key small group conferences each year, including a new national conference by Purpose Driven, and others like Willow Creek Association's small group conference (http://www.willowcreek.com/events/smallgroups/). We are also launching a national conference next June. The conference is geared towards Senior Pastors and Small Group Pastors and Champions to help you put some processes in place. You'll come away with a plan for how you are going to implement Purpose Driven small groups in your church over one year, three years, and five years.

It's definitely easier to launch a set of new small groups than it is to build a healthy small group ministry that continually launches new groups, trains new leaders, and builds systems and processes to sustain momentum over a long period of time. You can do it.

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