Getting into the FLOW of Small Groups

A case study of a Midwestern church that, as it grew, was looking for a way that could make the church smaller as it became larger.


This Midwestern non-denominational church which was planted 30 years ago currently has a Sunday worship attendance of 400-500 (combined in 2 services) and 26 adult small groups (13 which meet during a Sunday school time slot and another 13 which meet outside of Sunday mornings). Total adult participation in small groups approaches 200 people.

The church was started as a small group and grew around solid Bible-based teaching and a rural friendly family-oriented appeal. As the church grew, community primarily happened organically and through affinity-based adult Sunday school classes. The region around the church building began to transition from a rural setting to a suburban setting with housing and commercial developments growing rapidly. As the church began to grow with the community, a second worship was added and more small affinity-based Sunday school classes were launched. However, Sunday school growth (and facility growth) was not keeping pace with visitor growth. By the mid-90's, the church leadership decided to add additional staff to relieve some workload from the Sr. Minister and provide a new structure for discipleship and growth through small groups—a way that was perceived could make the church smaller as it became larger.

The Vision and Leadership Environment

The Small Group Ministry Vision was to connect everyone in the church to a small group for discipleship and care. The staff and elder's role was to be the small group leader's front line people, leading and maintaining contact with small group leaders and coaches and modelling encouragement and care to them.

A small group director was hired from within the congregation in 1997 to oversee and be the point person for the small group ministry ...

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