What Would a Well-tracked Small Group Ministry Look Like?

Don't let people fall through the cracks of your small group ministry.

I love orange juice and we were out, so I stopped by our local grocery store and went to the freezer unit to grab a couple cans of concentrate. I walked up to the glass door and peered in. It was gone! What, no orange juice! We have a great grocery store, and I know that if I go back today, chances are there will be a full shelf of orange juice concentrate. Why? Because I know my grocery store chain has mastered the art of keeping track of their inventory. Somewhere along the way, someone invested a huge amount of time and money to put into place a system for tracking orange juice concentrate, bread, and M&M's. When the store is about to run out, the system automatically orders whatever is getting low and that product is on its way. That night, it is restocked and the next day the shelves are full, as we American consumers have come to expect. We seldom think about it, unless, of course, the orange juice is not there. Now, people are not cans of orange juice, but if orange juice is important enough to keep track of, then surely it is as important (more important) to keep track of the people in your small groups.

What would a well-tracked small group ministry look like? To begin with, small groups would have to be "on the shelves" where people can have access to them. They would be able to read the group "label" to find out certain information, such as frequency of meetings, day of the week, childcare options, location, and an assortment of other descriptors reflecting the values of that church and group. There would have to be a way to buy in … an email, phone number or connection event. Then, once these groups are full, there would be an inventory specialist or coach to help them to grow and prepare to "restock the shelves" by multiplying the group and making room for more people. A well-tracked small group ministry would have a way to make sure this is happening. Individual level tracking would identify church members and prospects not yet involved in a group so that new leaders and leaders looking for new people could take the initiative to extend an invitation. Finally, there would be a way to count and monitor what was happening. This would be a system that reports not just attendance, but other values as well, such as ministry projects, social events, pastoral needs, and curriculum.

Can this really be done? There are many of us who have spent considerable time within the past decade thinking about this and looking for solutions. Results vary greatly from extremely haphazard approaches of tracking to overly complicated ones with tons of paperwork and meetings. Most churches are under-resourced, meaning they do not have the money to hire lots of staff to do the tracking and restocking. They do, however, have volunteer resources. The problem with volunteers is limited time and limited access to whatever inventory tracking system a church has. I believe the Internet is the key to finding a solution to the challenges of small group tracking. Why? It provides access to the essential information system for volunteer members, leaders, and leaders of leaders. A good Internet application will also provide a prompt for action much as the checkout process at a grocery store prompts the tracking of inventory. For me, developing Churchteams.com has been hard work with countless hours of interactions with small group leaders, coaches, pastors, small group directors, and programmers. Each interaction has brought refinement—some toward sophistication, some toward simplicity. As a small group pastor myself, the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter and brighter. I cannot imagine leading a ministry like this without such a tool. My dream is that the day will come when our church and churches across the nation and the world will have in place a tracking system that works as effectively and efficiently as the one at my grocery store. This will not just magically happen. It will take not only tools like an Internet application, but also some new habits on the part of everyone involved to insure the tool has the input necessary to make it work. The great news is that we are getting there.

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