Small Group Pastor

Where New Small Group Pastors Can Get the Training They Need


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 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 for an invitation)


Organizations to Join:

Small Group Network


Facebook Groups to Join:

Small Group Network


Small Group Ministry Practitioners











Provocative… Group Sizes and What Is Best Accomplished in Each


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 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.



Eye Opening Historical Small Group Ideas, 8 Assumptions Behind the Serendipity Group Model


The groups world would be wise to look over her shoulder, recognize the heroes that started the contemporary small group movement, and embrace some forgotten assumptions about group life that were established decades ago.

One of the pioneers of the contemporary small group movement is Lyman Coleman. Lyman is one of my heroes and one of the greatest thinkers in the small group space – ever. Lyman established a ministry called Serendipity. His description of Serendipity reads, “Serendipity is what happens when two or three get together and share their lives and the Holy Spirit does something beautiful when you least expect it.” Sounds like a great small group gathering, don’t you think?

For the next few days I want to remind us of some of the philosophies and practices that were established by Lyman. These philosophies and practices have the power to re-establish what small groups really can do. They also unearth for us what we can become through the work of the Holy Spirit, an understanding of and the importance of living the expectations unearthed in the Word of God, and what really happens as we live in sincere Christian community together.

Today, Lyman’s 8 Assumptions Behind the Serendipity Group Model:

  1. We are created in the image of God and endowed with amazing potential
  1. This potential can be realized through Jesus Christ, in the company of a supportive Christian community.
  1. To become a truly supportive Christian community we need to get to know one another in depth, and this takes time, effort and a common commitment to life together.
  1. Personal growth begins with inner change – as we respond to the invitation of God for newness of life.
  1. The Holy Spirit has endowed us with spiritual gifts for ministering to others within our supportive community, and through the community to the church and world at large.
  1. Scripture is the living account of God’s redemptive activity, and the primary guide to his will for right now.
  1. Spiritual wholeness includes our whole being – our emotions, relationships, values, and lifestyles.
  1. Celebration happens naturally and spontaneously when we are set free in a supportive Christian community to discover and express the beautiful persons we are in Christ.


This list was taken from the Serendipity Encyclopedia by Lyman Coleman.

Is An Out of Control Small Group Ministry The Best Kind?!


Let Go!!!!

Leaders long to control that which they lead. This seems to be the bent of most effective leaders. And in many instances – control works. Let’s face it, without someone being in control no one will get much accomplished.

But, is it possible that control is what’s keeping your small group ministry from growing? If we look at the early church we’ll find that, 1) Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come after His ascension. 2) The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost. 3) Through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit Peter preaches and 3,000 people become followers of Christ. Then we read these words, a paragraph describing the early church and its growth.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42 – 47)

Did you catch that last sentence? “The Lord added to their number DAILY those who were being saved.” (vs. 47) God was doing amazing things through these first century small groups. But they were out of control – for sure. Much of Paul’s writings are geared toward fixing what’s broke in the massive number of house churches that gathered around the Gospel and were doing their best to be the church. They were out of control yet the growth that was being experienced is almost beyond comprehension.

My friend Steve Gladen at Saddleback Church often reminds the small group pastors he’s speaking to that, “You can either have growth or control.” Why does he say this? Because, as has proven true at Saddleback (over 110% of adult weekend worshipers are in one of their small groups), when you give people the freedom to choose who is in their small group and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work, numeric growth happens.

One of the facts that cannot be overlooked is that the fastest growing small group ministries are those that give up control. The fastest growing small group ministries are those that tell their weekend worshipers, “If you’ve got a few friends and you want to become a small group together, just let us know.” When this idea is promoted publicly all kinds of red flags go up. I’ve heard the following questions nearly shouted from small group pastors in training sessions led by Steve, “What if they’re not spiritually mature enough to lead a group?”, “What if they’re not even believers?”, “What if no one in the group really knows the Bible?”, and the list goes on and on.

Yet Saddleback has seen astounding numbers of people who are far from Christ come to Christ through their small group ministry. It seems that when people gather around the Word of God that God’s Word does its work.

Maybe we need to differentiate between being in control and being in charge. Great and effective small group pastors who oversee numerically flourishing small group ministries may need to decide whether, while they’re in charge, they’re willing to give up control.

14 Lame Excuses People Use for Not Joining a Small Group and A Wise Response to Each


A massive number of people never join a small group because, when they verbalize an honest excuse, we don’t have a wise answer for them. Below you’ll find fourteen excuses people use when they don’t want to become part of a small group. You’ll also find a wise response to each excuse.

  1. I don’t know the Bible well enough.

Response: No one knows everything about the Bible, even pastors. All of us are there to learn the Bible together.


  1. I’m an introvert.

Response: Many of us in the group are introverts who don’t like to talk in public and you won’t have to until you choose to.


  1. I’m not comfortable around strangers.

Response: You won’t be strangers very long. I know because I’m just like you. In just a few weeks you’ll feel right at home.


  1. I don’t have time.

Response: We all have time for what we make time for. It’s up to you if you choose to make small group a priority or not.


  1. I’m afraid a question will be asked that I can’t answer.

Response: Every week the group leader asks a question I can’t answer. I just let someone else in the group answer that question.


  1. I don’t have anyone to watch my kids during the meeting.

Response: We have childcare at the meeting for your kids. In fact, they’ll get to hang out with other kids whose parents are in the group. Your kids will have a great time.


  1. My kids will interrupt the meeting.

Response: Sometimes our kids come to the room we’re meeting in and interrupt us. We don’t care about that because we all love our kids and will love yours too.


  1. I’m not comfortable praying aloud.

Response: You won’t be called on to pray aloud. You can if you want to but you won’t be forced or asked to. If you want me to I’ll let the group leader know about this before you come to the first meeting.


  1. I don’t understand the terms other Christians already know.

Response: None of us know all the Christianese that people use. When we don’t know what some term means we just ask the person who said it what it means.


  1. My husband won’t go with me.

Response: No problem. We’d be honored to have you without your husband. A lot of people are in groups without their spouses coming with them. Sometimes it’s because the husband travels for work or for some other reason. We’d be honored if you’d join us and I promise, you’ll feel right at home if you do.


  1. My wife won’t go with me.

Response: No problem. We’d be honored to have you without your wife. A lot of people are in groups without their spouses coming with them. Sometimes it’s because the wife travels for work or for some other reason. We’d be honored if you’d join us and I promise, you’ll feel right at home if you do.


  1. I’m allergic to most pets.

Response: We’ll be sure to find a group for you where the hosts don’t have any pets.


  1. I’m single and most groups are made up of couples with kids.

Response: Jesus’ church is really diverse. I promise, you’ll feel welcomed and be treated as just another Christian friend if you’ll give the group a try.


  1. They’re going to want me to talk about myself and I’m not confortable with that.

Response: You don’t have to talk about anything until you’re ready to. The group leader isn’t going to force you to talk about yourself or anything else.

6 Small Group Leader Fantasies That Will Never Come True


I’ve been leading small groups for over 30 years now. I’ve fantasized about leading the perfect group for decades. In fact, at one point, I actually created a group covenant that should’ve assured me that the perfect group would enter the doors of my home every Tuesday night. Not even close.

Until I came to the realization that no group was ever going to meet my unrealistic standards, I found myself frustrated. Below are six small group leader fantasies that will haunt you until you embrace the facts… these are only fantasies, not realities.

  1. All of the group members will come to every group meeting unless there’s an emergency they have to deal with.


  1. The overly talkative group member, once approached, will talk less.


  1. Group members will gladly, without arm twisting, take on some of the roles and responsibilities the group needs done.


  1. The group will realize the importance of multiplying the group and will joyfully, passionately, and willfully birth a new group.


  1. Group members want to grow spiritually and are willing to do whatever it takes between meetings to grow to become more and more like Christ.


  1. Every group member will show up for meetings on time and no one will leave early.


Just saying’…