Why Small Groups Are a Big Deal

Seven things every pastor needs to know about the emergence of small-group ministry.
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Doing life together is a biblical model, not a fancy program.

5. Small groups ministry will become the primary means to lifestyle evangelism in the future.
Building relationships is the most non-threatening, natural way to connect authentically with an unchurched person. And your home is the best place on earth to hear the most important message in eternity. Fifty percent of people invited by a friend will say yes to a short six-week Bible study in your home. Fifty percent!

If you simply challenge your people to follow God's call to do life together, it will have a positive impact on your church. Ask church members to write down names of 6-10 people with whom they would enjoy doing life together and challenge them to call those people on that list this week. Then, create a video table they can check out after each Sunday service. Provide DVD/Video curriculum with a few study guides for the week so they can have the tools they need to be able to host Bible studies in their homes with their friends. Challenge them with the value of community.

Here is the best part! We've found that in at least 40 percent of the churches we work with, when people jot down the names of friends to invite to their group, most don't worry if those friends are Christian or not. They just ask, "Is this someone I'd like to do life together with or hang out with for six weeks?" So they end up inviting people who do not know Christ, are new in their relationship with Christ, are not growing in their relationship with Christ, have never been in a small group, or haven't made spiritual life decisions in a long time.

6. Small groups are the crock-pot for training unlimited leaders.
Bill Hybels said at the Leadership Summit last August, that small groups were one of the top performance drivers in the church of tomorrow. Rick Warren said they are a "Leadership Engine or Factory of the Future." Either way, don't underestimate the power of community to train and develop the leaders of the future.

I call it the crock-pot method, because mobilizing small-group leaders is getting easy. The real challenge is developing leaders who don't just launch a group for six weeks, but leaders who continue on for a lifetime. Here are a few ideas that can work right away for you. Register for Brett's free newsletter today.

First, challenge all groups to de-emphasize apprenticeship and focus on rotating and sharing leadership. The best way to learn how to lead is to experience it. This will grow every member into a leader … not overnight but over time. When you rotate leadership in the groups, ultimately people are being better prepared than if they were to participate in a 10-week small group leadership training course. Each person gets a turn to lead and passes the curriculum on to the next person to facilitate the next time.

Second, use campaigns two or three times a year to align the weekend with the small group study to create an excuse to ask all existing groups to take a six-week vacation to host a short-term group in their community for their church community. Thirty percent of the Saddleback groups did this during our first 40 Day Campaign. But you could do this every fall, even if you have done it before in the past. The Beginning Lifetogether DVD is an excellent resource for our first small group campaign. You could launch 20-40 percent of your church into groups. It comes with live weekly teaching (from Bruce Wilkenson, John Ortberg, Henry Cloud, Joe Stowell, etc.), live leader training, live testimonial, and live small group worship. It's the first plug-and-play curriculum on the market with a built-in small group leader "GPS" system for your leaders. Do it again every fall, even if you have done 40 Days before. Each week, a new teacher shares about one of the five purposes, helping bring back the vision and momentum gained from the previous campaign. It will amaze you as it did us at Saddleback!

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