Note: This article has been excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training tool called Re-Launching a Small-Groups Ministry.
John Atkinson is the discipleship pastor and home-teams director for Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is co-author ofGo Big with Small Groups.
Building Small Groups: Can you give us a brief summary of your experience with re-launching a small-groups ministry?
John Atkinson: When I came on staff at Bay Area Fellowship, there were about 16 groups. But because there wasn't a pastor or ministry leader overseeing the effort, about half of them were completely unhealthy—they were basically mini-churches out on their own. So one of the first things I did was "grow" our home-team ministry from 16 teams to 8, which I know is not a very auspicious start.
We re-launched at that point with a whole new vision. I think one of the biggest problems I see with small-group ministries that fail is that there is no vision. There's no answer to the question, "Why do we have a small-groups ministry?" A lot of small-group ministries are out there because churches think, "Well, we're supposed to have one." But if you don't have a vision for what you're trying to accomplish, you'll never accomplish it.
What are some of the first steps that church leaders need to take when re-launching a small-groups ministry?
Well, the first step is to identify a vision, for all the reasons I just mentioned. The second step is to set goals. What percentage of your congregation would you like attending small groups? Setting numerical goals gives you something to strive for. And I really challenge church leaders not to set achievable goals. Instead, set God-sized goals. ...