I sometimes refer to the process by which people get into small groups as the "funnel." A funnel is a device which has a wide opening at one end and a small opening at the other end. Funnels help get things into small, hard-to-access openings.
The idea here is that small groups form and grow as people are drawn to do life together out of larger groups of people. How people get from the larger group to the smaller group is the "funnel" or the pathway used to bring people into community. I have personally experienced the use of three different funnels in church small group ministries. While I have developed some biases about which funnel works best, I will try to share some observations along with some ups and downs I have experienced with each strategy. The bottom line is that regardless of which funnel you use, the long-term results of your small group ministry will depend on the core values instilled as people travel through the funnel into small group communities.
The first funnel I call the Silo Funnel.
The idea here is that every church has "small groups" whether they try to or not. Every church has relational clusters that exist. Those clusters may exist in small Sunday school classes or music choirs or even what some people might call "cliques." One way to form small groups where spiritual development is a core value is to utilize the relationships that are already there, the "groups" that are already there. All you really have to do is add some intentionality to it—train a leader, recommend a meeting schedule, provide an agenda, and have a church leader draw a circle around them and call them a group! Obviously, healthy disciple-making groups do not always self-initiate, so the silo funnel can help it happen. ...