Monthly Archives: January 2013
There are a myriad of reasons why a small group system may not be working. I talk to leaders all of the time who are struggling because their church just will not buy into the concept of community outside of Sunday morning. Most of the time as I start drilling down with a few questions, some of the same reasons start popping up. Here are a few reasons why small groups may not be working in your church:
- The Senior Pastor does not believe in them. This will kill a groups system before it can even start. Some pastors know that their church should offer some sort of smaller groups, but they do not completely buy in enough to be the champion of it. The lead pastor has to be the head cheerleader for why circles are better than rows (blatant Stanley rip off).
- Small groups are just another program. When competing for resources, groups are going to lose every time. If a church is offering 100 different programs during the week and groups are just one of them, people will choose the easiest, quickest item on the menu. Investing time into other people’s lives is not quick and easy. Discipleship requires focus.
- There are no easy on-ramps to groups. How hard is it to get in a group? How many levels down on the website are they? If groups are not offered as an entry point to the church, they will have less of an impact to the congregation. If your groups system is going to reach beyond the core to the crowd, there has to be easy on-ramps for everyone.
- No one on staff is waking up in the morning thinking about groups. A lot of the time, small groups is just a small subset of a staff members job. Trust me on this – building and maintaining a healthy groups system is not easy. There are always issues because people are always messy. Someone who is passionate about seeing people grow spiritually should be thinking about this every day.
- Vision has leaked out. Small group leaders need to know that what they are doing every week is making an eternal difference. Cleaning your house for group every week gets old. Hearing about other people’s issues can drag you down. They have to be consistently reminded that the reason we do this is because we are called to carry out the Gospel by discipling other believers. Groups are vital for the spiritual health of your church.
One of the most common question that I get from new leaders is: “What is the right size for a group?”. I always answer with – that depends. What kind of a group do you want to have? I believe that you can have a successful, life-giving group with anywhere from 2-100 people in it.
There is even a movement now to get rid of the word “group” and ask people to just gather 2-3 of your friends and grow together over the next few months. That can work. We call those mentoring groups.
I do think that if you have more than 10 single people or more than 8 couples in a room, the amount of discussion is going to be limited to a few. (Couples tend to come as a set. There will usually (not always) be one that speaks for the other one.) I would encourage those groups to continue to grow, but allow time for splitting into smaller groups for discussion.
The smaller the group, the better chance for life-on-life discipleship. The larger the group, the better chance to impact the community missionaly. Our largest group at Cross Point has over 150 people in it. They start meetings together and then break down into 15 smaller groups for discussion and prayer. Almost every week, they are serving the community somewhere. There is power in numbers when it comes to missions.
I would encourage every small group system to be designed for groups of all sizes. When it comes to groups, there is no “one size fits all”.
Pete Wilson kicked off our newest semester of groups yesterday at Cross Point with a message about the healing that comes from true confession and community. In it, he said something that has stuck with me:
“Authenticity” is a cultural buzz word right now. But it seems that while authenticity is the cry of all, it is the game of few.
We have created a culture in our churches and groups where being real is trumped by being liked. We are afraid that if we open up and show people our real stuff, they will reject us for who we are. The problem is, if we continue this pattern – the sin, the habits, the character defects – will just continue to gain hold over our lives.
We have to allow true repentance and confession to exist within the safety of community. Here are a few things that we can do in groups to foster a healthy environment for authenticity:
Start groups with a convenant.
Create opportunities within the group for people to tell their story.
If you have a couples group, take time in your meeting time to split into men and women.
Encourage group members to spend time one-on-one outside of group with someone that they can trust as a mentor.
Make sure that the group leader has someone that is caring for them.
Promote grace and discourage judgement at all times.
Be ok with veering off of the study occasionally for a group member that is hurting.
Be the one to go first.
When I first came on staff at Cross Point 4 years ago, I decided to take a crash course in everything small groups. I knew if we were going to get to 80% of our adults in groups, we were going to need a lot of help. There were several books and blogs that helped shape my thinking along the way. Here are a few of my favorite books:
- Sticky Church by Larry Osborne. This book really opened my eyes to the power of message questions groups. They have maintained over 80% in groups for several years.
- Activate by Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas. This is a great book about putting systems and semesters in place.
- Organic Community: Creating a Place Where People Naturally Connect by Joseph R. Myers. Groups cannot be just about programs or systems. True community has to occur organically over time.
- Small Groups With A Purpose by Steve Gladen. We took our entire groups team through this book. Saddleback has led the way and you will know why after reading this book.
- A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small-Group Dynamic by Rick Howerton. I don’t know anyone who get’s missional living more than Rick. If you want to know where we should be heading with group life, then buy this book.
I am always searching for new resources and tools that can help us facilitate a groups system better. Here are a few of my current favorites.
- Evernote. I don’t know how I would stay organized without it. All of my meeting notes, ideas, agendas, thoughts…etc go into Evernote. It also how my assistant and I stay on the same page.
- RightNowTraining.org. We do all of our basic training online with RightNow. They allow us to customize our training as much or as little as we need. We create our own videos and studies and load it into RightNow. They also have a ton of small group studies hosted online.
- SurveyMonkey.com. We send out surveys once every semester to our group leaders. This helps us get better at how we can serve them and gives them a voice in the process. We also used it for hosting our online training before RightNow.
- Small Groups Database. We have a custom database that was designed by one of our volunteers. There a lot of options out there, but having one custom designed for our needs is awesome.
- Square. We use iPads and Square at all of our campuses to sell curriculum to group leaders.
- IngramContent.com. We buy almost all of our curriculum and resources through Ingram. It helps turn around time that they are based in Nashville.
- Wufoo.com. All of our online event sign-ups are done on Wufooo. Great for filtering with multiple campuses.
Anything that you would add to the list?