Long-Term Versus Short-Term Success in Small Group Ministry

Small group ministry thrives when you the end result is kept in view.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, tells people to "live life with the end in view." Covey counsels a person to imagine what others would say at his or her funeral and then to live a life that would fulfill those compliments.

Successful small group ministry is like running a marathon and not a 50-yard dash. It thrives when the end is kept in view.

In contrast, several programs/campaigns on the market today promote the 50-yard dash style of small group ministry. The fast, immediate proliferation of small groups—without much leadership training, coaching, or in-depth infrastructure planning—is promoted. I've heard reports of churches that have been "transformed" overnight by reading a book and getting people to open their homes to study the book.

I'm all for success in small group ministry, yet years of helping churches achieve that success stirs me to think long-term. I do want to rejoice in all small group victories, but I also want to continue rejoicing over the long haul.

I've personally failed in small group ministry by promoting rapid multiplication at the expense of a strong infrastructure. Many of my groups fizzled out as a result. Through my failures, I have arrived at the conclusion that steady, long-term victories are far better than quick ones.

So what does starting with the end in view look like for small group ministry?

First, it means having a strong coaching structure in place. I counsel leaders not to start more small groups than the church can adequately coach. I suggest a ratio of one coach for every three groups. Jim Egli, Ph.D., researched small group churches around the world and discovered that coaching was the key element for assuring long-term small group success. ...

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