Small Groups

Where New Small Group Pastors Can Get the Training They Need

training

If you’re like me, you started in ministry with a lot of gaps that needed to be filled. You were excited about doing ministry but didn’t really know what you were doing. Once I realized where my weaknesses were, I could respond accordingly. I disciplined myself to learn what needed to be learned by reading the right books, going to the right conferences, being connected to the right organizations, and interviewing the right people.

Below you’ll find a list may be helpful to you as you journey into small group leadership.

Foundational Small Group Ministry Books:

Prepare Your Church for the Future by Carl George

Building a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry by Bill Donahue

Leading Life Changing Small Groups by Bill Donahue

Small Groups With Purpose by Steve Gladen

Leading Small Groups With Purpose by Steve Gladen

Connecting in Communities by Eddie Mosley

Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support by Brad House

Starting Small By Ben Reed

Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual by Rick Howerton

 

Conferences to Attend:

Small Group Beta, Sponsored by LifeWay Church Resources (Invitation only event. Email me at rick.howerton@lifeway.com for an invitation)

The Lobby, Sponsored by the Small Group Network

Re:Group, Sponsored by North Point Community Church

GROUPS200, Sponsored by LifeWay Church Resources (Invitation only event. Email me at rick.howerton@lifeway.com for an invitation)

 

Organizations to Join:

Small Group Network

 

Facebook Groups to Join:

Small Group Network

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SGNContact/

 

Small Group Ministry Practitioners

https://www.facebook.com/groups/296343180395833/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Undeniable Facts… Why Starting New Small Groups Isn’t Optional

optionalComponentsEvery groups pastor I’ve ever met is outrageously passionate about starting new groups. In fact, starting new groups may be, in the minds of most groups point people, the most important thing they do.

In order for that to happen the groups pastor has to sell the idea to group leaders, coaches, and sometimes, even to the church staff and the elders. And if the small group pastor entered a situation where the birthing of new groups from pre-existing groups wasn’t on the radar screen of the prior groups point person, getting group leaders to consider multiplying in order to start new groups is like getting mice to purposefully march into a series of mousetraps. Groups Point People, if they’re going to start new groups, need ammunition they can use to convince people the starting of new groups is non-optional.

There are many great reasons to start new groups. A few of those would fall into two categories, the “Three tions” and the “Four Creates.”

 The Three “…tions

  1. Assimilation – When people visit a church, one of the first questions they’re asking themselves is, “Will I be able to find and make some friends?” At the point they realize they won’t be able to connect with some people at a meaningful level, they’ll soon try some other church. Small Groups are the perfect place to meet and get to know people. If a church is going to assimilate people into church life, starting new groups is a must.
  1. Justification – Justification is simply, being made righteous in the sight of God. That is, realizing one’s need for a Savior and allowing the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse them from all unrighteousness, becoming a Christian. For those who are not yet followers of Christ there’s no better place for them to hear the Gospel, process the Gospel, see the Gospel lived out in the lives of a few believers, and choose to receive the transformational power of the Gospel.
  1. Sanctification – Sanctification is the stage-by-stage growth that takes place as someone becomes more and more like Jesus Christ. This happens in community, a community small enough to know one another really, learn God’s Word together, hold one another accountable to live God’s Word, and drive one another to study and be saturated in God’s Word. A biblical small group is that community.

 

The Four Creates

Anything new creates a sense of anticipation and is a magnet for many people. Think about it. Church plants grow faster than existing churches. New movements grow faster than those that have lost their newness. Starting new groups creates an air of anticipation. In fact, each time a new group is started those who may have not been willing to join a group in the past are much more apt to do so

Other than creating a sense of anticipation, what do new groups do? A few of those things are listed below.:

  1. Creates Space for Newbies – Oftentimes our groups are all full. There’s no room for anyone else in the households where groups are meeting. Some will say, “Just add more people. They all don’t show up at the same time anyway.” The reason they don’t show up consistently is because, when a group gets to be too large, people get lost in the crowd and don’t feel they make enough difference to feel obligated to show up each week. Not only that, when new people try a group and the room is full, they feel very uncomfortable as they feel as though they’re taking someone else’s seat or making the room even more crowded. Starting a new group with the correct number of people creates space for those who aren’t in a group but are in the hunt for one.
  1. Creates a Safe Place for Newbies – Group members visiting a pre-existing group for the first time quickly realize that those who are already in the group have history. They also intuitively understand that they’re outsiders that will never know all the inside jokes or be able to connect at the level of those who have been together for months or years. The group doesn’t feel like an emotionally safe place to them because they don’t believe they’ll ever be insiders. Starting a new group gives newbies equal footing and a chance to join others who are beginning the journey at the same time together.
  1. Creates a Family for Those in Need of a Family – Every believer needs a Christian family, a small group of believers who have the indwelling Holy Spirit in them, who allow the Word of God to guide their lives, and who will care for and meet one another’s emotional and material needs. Starting new groups makes it possible for those who need a room full of Christian brothers and sisters to do life’s journey with to connect and become a family.
  1. Creates a Safe Place for Stories to be Told – As we tell our stories, God redeems our stories. Each time a new group is started those who make up the group have the opportunity to speak openly about their dark past and journey into the light while at the same time looking over their shoulders and celebrating what God has already done for them.

 

What Is A Successful Small Group Ministry – Really?

cles

What is a successful small group ministry? This is a question every small group point person must ask. If we never ask this question, we never know what we must accomplish so we can never strategize for accomplishment.

But we must first ask who gets to answer the question, “What is a successful small group ministry?”. If we ask the senior pastor, we may be told that a successful small group ministry is a ministry that helps weekend worshipers make friends so that they will stick. If we ask the Finance Team they may be prone to declare that a successful small group ministry brings more tithers into the congregation. If we ask the elders, they may say the small group ministry is successful when no need goes unmet. If we ask group members, they’ll most likely tell us a successful small group ministry makes sure they can have some close friends. And if you ask yourself, the Small Group Point Person, you may say a successful small group ministry is a ministry that functions within its budget and is an efficient machine starting a massive number of new groups annually.

But, who should answer the question, “What is a successful small group ministry?” There’s only one right answer to this question – Jesus. If Jesus were to answer this question, he’d tell us that a successful small group ministry makes mature disciples who then make disciples.

So – are you leading a successful small group ministry?

“Ice-Breakers Suck!”

474983_070

I was once again leading a small group leader training event in a southern state. The room was completely full. Over 100 group leaders were there. The small group pastor had invited me to spend 4 hours with them. His one major expectation, “Be sure you help them know how to host an effective conversational Bible study.” Since aiding group leaders in doing that specific thing is one of my passions I was jazzed. That is, until I announced, “If you want to experience a truly transformational conversational Bible study, start with a couple of good ice-breakers.” That’s when the moment went south. From the back of the room came this shout of exasperation, “Ice-breakers suck!”

This is not the first time I’ve encountered group leaders frustrated when ice-breakers are brought up. After interviewing many group leaders who verbalized their frustration with ice-breakers, I find that most of them aren’t personally frustrated. Rather, they’ve had complaints from a few group members when the leader opens the meeting ice-breakers.

There are a few super important reasons to do a couple of ice-breakers before diving into the Bible study conversation.:

  1. It gets group members talking about their own story.
  1. It levels the playing field. A good ice-breaker is simply a question that asks about something from one’s childhood or teen years or asks about a preference you have, etc… It’s a question anyone can answer. And, when you have a garbage collector in the same room as a bank president, when a question of this nature is answered by both individuals, a level playing field is created.
  1. It gives the leader a chance to model active listening for the group prior to the Bible study conversation.
  1. It sets the tone of the meeting as being relaxed. This is especially important when new group members are in attendance or when discussing some heavy stuff during the Bible study time.
  1. It gets the person who is hesitant to talk into the conversation early on.
  1. It allows the non-talker to say something during the meeting, even if this is all they say, helping them to feel a part of the group.
  1. It gives the group leader a chance to speak a word of encouragement to every group member which will make them more apt to speak when the real Bible study begins. After each person responds thank them for sharing then tell them you look forward to hearing from them later.

Provocative… Group Sizes and What Is Best Accomplished in Each

size-tags

There seems to be great debate concerning the number of people that make up a healthy group. Part of the reason this is so is due to the fact that today’s church seems to have embraced the idea that almost any group that has fewer people in it than is in a weekend worship service and can fit in one room is a small group.

There are groups of 13 or more meeting in a large classroom with one celebrity teacher proclaiming information to those in attendance. Some call this a small group.

There’s small groups of 4 to 12. These groups have been called small groups for decades.

There’s the disciple making group made up of 2 to 4, one person discipling another person or few others. This too is often called a small group.

So, what’s the deal? The deal is, the term “smaller” (denoting size) has become synonymous with “small” (denoting the actions and activities of a stereoptypical small group, a group of 4 to 12). No group size is the wrong size as long as it knows what it can do best in light of the number of people in attendance.

13 or more – This group is best for the proclamation of The Word of God by an effective Bible teacher. Those in attendance are most apt to sit and listen, take notes, and leave fulfilled knowing they’ve attained knowledge they didn’t have upon arrival. This is more of a university class than a small group.

4 to12 – This group is best for living in intimate Christian commnunity, doing life together. Those in attendance are apt to have a conversation around God’s Word, verbalize their own shortcomings, encourage one another on a personal level, pray for one another’s deepest needs, and leave fulfilled knowing they are not alone in their journey toward Christ-likeness or in the messiness of life. This is more of a family than a class.

2 to 4 – This group is best for high expectation, accountable, disciple making. Those in attendance are led by one person who is discipling them, are driven to memorize Scripture, study the Bible daily, share a verbal witness with others, and leave knowing they are growing toward substantial spiritual maturity. This is more of an accountable disciple making group than a small group or a class.

Seven Reasons A Small Group Should Be 12 or Less People

The-Number-12

The number of people in a small group really does affect the group member’s experience. Some have come to believe that a group of 13, 30, even 50 is capable of accomplishing the same thing in the lives of group members as a group of 12 or less. While it may be true that the group leader can promote the same principles and practices, there are at least seven reasons why this ideology may be impractical.

  1. Only a group of 12 or less will experience close, intimate relationships between most or all of its members. This is a group dynamic fact, not an opinion.
  1. When a small group is more than 12, fewer and fewer people are bold enough to engage in the conversational Bible study.
  1. When a group is more than 12, people begin to feel that they are unnecessary to the group and are more apt to miss meetings.
  1. When a group is more than 12, there isn’t time for all the group members to share their thoughts and perceptions during the conversational Bible study.
  1. When a group is more than 12, in most instances, a few people ambush the conversational Bible study each week.
  1. When a group is more than 12, group members are less apt to step outside their comfort zone and pray aloud for the first time, read Scripture, share their spiritual journey, etc… and it is in stepping outside our comfort zones, in faith, that God grows us.
  1. When a group is more than 12, people are capable of hiding in the crowd and ultimately will get lost in it.

 

 

The 10 Commandments of Conversational Small Group Bible Study Facilitation

10commandments.new_

Facilitating a small group Bible study is one of my favorite things to do. Hearing the combined wisdom of the group, drawing the hesitant group member into the conversation, searching for God’s truth while keeping each other’s opinions in check, and seeing the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit as He uses many voices to find out what God is really saying, is a thrill I never get tired of.

Being an effective conversational Bible study facilitator demands keeping a few things in mind. Below are my 10 Commandments of Small Group Bible Study Facilitation.

  1. Thou shalt make Scripture the centerpiece of the conversation.
  2. Thou shalt talk less than 30% of the time (20% would be even better).
  3. Thou shalt prepare easy to understand questions.
  4. Thou shalt ask open-ended questions.
  5. Thou shalt be an active listener.
  6. Thou shalt allow group members to answer one another’s questions (Don’t jump in and answer someone’s question unless you have to.).
  7. Thou shalt make the goal to find out what God is saying (not people’s opinions concerning what God might be saying).
  8. Thou shalt not allow the overly-talkative person to ambush the conversation.
  9. Thou shalt never demean anyone (for a question asked or a response given).
  10. Thou shalt call the group to apply the truth learned (The greatest spiritual growth comes in doing God’s Word, not just knowing it.)