Ten Church Strategies: The Small Groups Strategy

The local church can make a lot of mistakes, and people won’t leave if it can get one thing right: relationships. I’ve seen this happen many times. People will learn to deal with leadership weaknesses and minor inconveniences in a church setting when they have developed authentic relationships. You have probably heard the terms ‘front door’ and ‘back door’ in terms of people joining or leaving a church. Developing a relevant and effective small groups ministry will make a huge impact on closing that ‘back door’.

In this installment of ‘The Ten Church Systems‘ I’ll talk about creating a means by which church attendees can grow, express care, and ultimately ‘be the church’ through small group environments. If you haven’t already, I recommend you first read my ‘Getting Started Thoughts and Disclaimers’, written in three parts: Part 1Part 2Part 3.

Key Sub-Systems of the Small Group System
Following are the key sub-systems related to small groups. These systems have been left somewhat vague to allow room for various small group strategies a church might adopt. That said, each system will be fairly complex and time consuming to maintain. A special thanks goes to Pastor Doug Cowburn at Elim Gospel Church for his help in refining these thoughts.

  • Group Leader System
    You can’t have good groups without leaders (facilitators) and hosts (hospitality). This system will oversee the recruitment, training, care and ongoing development of group leaders, hosts, and apprentices. 
  • Group Connection System
    This system will provide opportunities for attendees to get connected into an appropriate small group (whether a new group or existing group) with ease. It will service both longstanding attendees as well as guests. The group connection system may include group campaigns, events, website sign-ups, and more.
  • Group Content System
    This system will ensure the approved group content is communicated, purchased (if applicable), created (if applicable), distributed, and implemented. This system will also include a feedback element to ensure the content is remaining relevant to group members.
Note: As in all of the Ten Church Systems, church leaders will need to determine their group strategy. This will include asking questions like, “How long will groups last?”; “What will we choose to study within our small groups?”; “Will we ask all groups to study the same thing (full alignment) at different times?”; “How many groups/participants are we shooting for?”; “What requirements do we have of groups (if any)?; etc.

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  • Wayne Hedlund December 29, 2011  

    You’re right. It is overwhelming. There is probably a better way for me to talk systems without overwhelming people. Perhaps I’ll be able to do that as I grow older. That said, a real key to progressing as a pastor and leader is simply understanding that you need good systems in place.

    It looks like you are an avid reader. So I suggest you begin by focusing your reading in the areas of your primary responsibility. If you want a head start, check out my ‘Reading Lists’.

    I also recommend you get help. One of the biggest reasons pastors are overwhelmed is because they try to do all of the work themselves. Find a couple of people or families in your church who will agree to partner with you in some of these areas. Since you’re new, take advantage of your ‘green-ness’ when making your pitch. Let people know that for you to be a success, you will need help.

    Next, find ways to simplify. That’s real hard to do, and it can be dangerous as you can accidentally kill a sacred cow that nobody was ready to let die. But still, it’s good for you to pray about and think of ways to either stop doing something you are doing, or doing things better and simpler.

    Finally, give me a call. I’d be very glad to give you an hour of my time (at no charge) to see if there’s anything else I might be able to help you with.