This is challenging but necessary. Start with your church's staff: Are all staff members involved in or leading a small group? If not, it will be difficult for others to see the value. We can't ask our people to do things that we're not modeling for them—leaders must go first. But getting involved in small groups isn't just about modeling. When your entire church staff is involved in small groups, you'll all have real, current, and personal stories to share with others in the church. These stories will come out in sermons and as people lead their own ministries. No matter where people are involved in your church, they'll be hearing stories of how small groups are impacting lives.
Next, consider how small groups are talked about in your weekend services. At COMMUNITY, we have at least three messages each year (often more) that are focused on the value of community and how God designed us to live in relationship. We promote small groups big-time on those weekends. But even when the weekend message isn't focused on small groups or community, the person teaching will share a story from their small group as an illustration, we'll feature a small group doing cool things in the community, or the worship leader will share something he or she learned in small group. These casual mentions about small groups are all part of creating a culture of small groups.
Third, track what you value. If we don't measure it, then it's probably not that important to us. What do you track in regards to small groups? At COMMUNITY, our goal is that at least 75 percent of our adults are connected in small groups. Some of our campuses hit that, some are at 50 percent, and some are 100 percent or more! But everyone knows it's our goal. And when we talk about it to the rest of the church, we tell them our goal is to have every person experiencing life in a small group, that their spiritual life will even feel incomplete without it.
Even though connecting people into groups will be a constant challenge (especially as your church grows), it's always worth our time and effort—if we believe small groups are as valuable as we claim they are. And because we're dealing with real people who are unique, we can't rely on a one-size-fits-all strategy to group everyone. The more we integrate ideas of capitalizing on key rhythms in people's lives, trying creative ideas, and being consistent to create a culture of small groups, the more people we'll connect into life-changing community.
—Carter Moss is a campus pastor and the small-group champion for Community Christian Church and an editorial advisor for SmallGroups.com; copyright 2013 by Christianity Today.
- What are the key times for your ministry? How might you capitalize on them?
- How can you consistently talk about small groups in your church? What creative ideas can you come up with?
- Are you a church with small groups or a church of small groups? What steps can you take in the next month to move toward having a stronger small-group culture?