The temptation is to get through May and then rest all summer before kicking into high gear just in time for fall launch. Don't give in to temptation! Now is the time to invest in your ministry and prepare for a successful fall launch. Build momentum for fall with these five simple tips:
1. Evaluate your ministry.
It's time to come up for air and get a big-picture view of your ministry. Now's the time to evaluate what's working and what could use some work. What results is your ministry creating? Think through the areas that are contributing to success and the aspects that frustrate you. What changes could help your ministry run more smoothly?
Maybe you need to build a team of people to help you—perhaps coaches to develop leaders, or an administrator to free you up from the paperwork. Or maybe you need more group leaders, a better connection strategy, or more thorough training.
Take an honest look at every aspect of your ministry and refuse to say, "But we've always done it that way." For great assessments that will help you evaluate your ministry, use our Small Groups Assessment Pack.
Of course, if you don't have a firm group strategy for your ministry, start there. Develop a strong strategy, and you might find that some of the other issues you're facing will melt away.
2. Work on the weak spots.
Often, the pace of ministry life is a bit slower during the summer. Use that slower pace to your advantage to work on the weak spots you've identified. Five of the most common issues small-group ministries face are:
- Creating and communicating a clear vision
- Recruiting and training enough leaders
- Coaching leaders and staying in touch throughout the year
- Effectively connecting people into small groups
- Leading meaningful groups that develop disciples
Take time now to work through your ministry's weak spots and prepare for a strong fall. I highly recommend our Small Group Essentials training tools to get everything you need to address the biggest issues in your ministry.
If you prefer video training, check out our 10 training videos just for small-group point people on the most common issues in small-group ministry—from developing a strategy to recruiting new leaders.
3. Learn the latest trends.
One of the best things you can do for your ministry is continually explore best practices and new trends. When you stay up-to-date, you can implement new strategies that fit your context, avoid common issues with small groups, and identify things that are holding you back.
To keep up with the latest on the small-group movement, make a point to regularly read our Explore New Ideas section. Each month we publish several articles that tackle important topics in small-group ministry. (In the past few months, we've covered mental illness, women in the movement, the pros and cons of video Bible studies, and the lack of discipleship in groups.) We also regularly share stories of what small groups around the world are doing, like how small groups are helping launch church plants.
It's also great to read new books that are published on small groups and leadership. Here are three of my favorite new books:
Life Together in Christ, Ruth Haley Barton
Leading Small Groups in the Way of Jesus, M. Scott Boren
Inside Job: Doing the Work Within the Work, Stephen W. Smith
4. Pray for your ministry.
When it comes to ministry, we do a lot of work—but we have to remember that God is really in charge. After all, life change happens only in the Spirit's power and timing. But we often treat our ministry like it's all our responsibility, don't we?
During these summer months, I encourage you to pray heartily for your ministry. Pray for your current leaders and groups. Pray for potential leaders to rise up and for your ability to identify them. Pray for the new people who will come to your church this fall and seek out small groups. Pray that the Spirit will move, that lives will be changed, and that more and more people will be connected in biblical community. More than anything, give your ministry over to God and ask how you can best steward his ministry.
5. Connect with potential leaders.
While you're praying for potential leaders, start making a list of people who come to mind. Ask the leaders in your ministry to do the same. Think about it: Who cares deeply for others and invests in relationships? Who displays empathy when others share struggles? Who is especially faithful? Who is committed to your ministry vision? Who is eager to learn?
Find the right questions to ask in this article on identifying leaders. You'll discover the right kinds of people to look for. When you do find someone, make the ask. Make it clear that you're asking this person specifically, and not just anyone you run into. Let the person know why you think he or she would make a great group leader or coach. Then work out a plan to develop your potential leaders over the summer so they're ready for fall.
—Amy Jackson is managing editor of SmallGroups.com.