As a small-group director, I spent a lot of time during the summer months assessing the previous ministry year and deciding on new plans for our fall launch of groups. But the truth is, the start of a new year is another great time to do this kind of assessment. There's no need to wait until fall to change certain things about your ministry. In fact, you might do more damage—or at least miss out on growth—if you assess only once a year.
So as you begin a new calendar year, consider what resolutions you'd like to make for your ministry. Here are a few that might work for you.
1. Communicate a clear vision for your ministry.
One of the pitfalls of small-group pastors is not communicating clearly about what small groups are, what's expected of leaders, and how to join a group. The hard part is pastors think through these things so much that they often forget to let others know. Don't make this mistake anymore. Without a clear vision, your ministry will never thrive. Further, you'll never be able to assess how you're doing.
Create or assess your vision with Create a Compelling Vision.
Communicate your vision with Improving Communication for Effective Small-Group Ministry.
2. Educate yourself.
When you first started in ministry, you couldn't learn enough! You read books, blogs, and articles to your heart's content. But now, months or years later, you haven't read anything new about ministry. While small-group methods may not change drastically over time, we all need to continue learning. A new author may put something into terms you better understand. You may be better able to match your church culture to new techniques. And we all need to be reminded why small groups are so important—especially through stories of life change. Plus, none of us are perfect leaders. Choose a Training Tool to brush up on a skill like listening or read an article on group prayer. You'll grow as a leader, and you'll be better equipped to lead your ministry or group.
An excellent book for . . .
Coaches: Coaching Life-Changing Small-Group Leaders by Bill Donahue and Greg Bowman
3. Better prepare for meetings.
We've all done the two-minute read-through to prepare for group. It's 10 minutes before people are arriving and you're still picking up toys from your living room . . . and you forgot to read the Bible passage for the week. While sometimes this is inevitable—and we can trust that God can work despite our unpreparedness—it's a good idea to prepare a little more than two minutes. Read the passage or book chapter. Choose a focus for your time together. Create a few discussion questions. Anticipate questions from group members. Think through possible application. Pray for your group members. It doesn't have to be a lengthy chore, but a little preparation will go a long way in leading meaningful meetings.
Learn to prepare for and lead great meetings with Leading 101.
Prepare for doctrinal conversations with these great cheat sheets.
Learn to bring focus to your small-group meetings by watching this quick training video.
4. Focus on discipleship.
It's easy to focus on the day-to-day needs of small-group ministry rather than the people themselves. For instance, you might check off your to-dos easily: send attendance report, prepare next meeting's discussion questions, send an e-mail to group members, etc. And while all those things are important, how often are you focused on growing the people in your care—not just doing the work of a leader? Resolve to be a leader that is first and foremost helping people grow. This perspective will change everything you do. Linger a little longer after group to check in with group members, send thoughtful notes or e-mails, remember important dates in group members' lives, and really work on developing relationships outside of meetings. God doesn't call us to lead meetings; he calls us to make disciples.
Another great way to focus on real discipleship? Choose a group study that addresses real topics that challenge group members and encourage them to be holistic disciples. Do a group study on living simply, taking care of the environment, or ministering to people with mental illness.
Learn to disciple a group of people at different spiritual maturity levels.
Get your group involved in missional living to see amazing growth in your group and in your community.
5. Invest in other leaders through coaching and apprenticing.
An often overlooked aspect of discipleship is calling out and training leaders. Leadership development is extremely important, though. It allows people to grow in their giftedness and keeps your ministry flourishing with an abundance of new leaders. Too often pastors and directors lament a lack of prepared leaders in their ministry. But the problem may be that they're not identifying and preparing them. It's a privilege to invest in other leaders for God's work. Make time for this essential ministry responsibility.
Better coach the small-group leaders in your care with Coaching Small-Group Leaders.
Develop new leaders by walking through the Small-Group Apprentice Orientation Guide.
Train new leaders with engaging videos and activities with the Small-Group Leader Training Program.
—Amy Jackson is the managing editor of SmallGroups.com and a former small-group director; copyright 2013 by Christianity Today.