Why Small Groups Don’t Work

The second problem is that most churches cannot afford to address all of these needs.

Problem number three is that there are fewer people who are wired with the strengths to play the role of small group architect or designer. I’ve had to learn this the hard way. I have tried to force myself into the role of a maintainer and a builder because that’s the role I assumed I needed to play. I’ve done both for a while, but I was never that good at it. Now I see that I am an architect, a creative designer who applies small design principles to specific situations. Honestly, I rarely find many who are wired with these propensities. And when I do find someone like this, they are in very large churches and they work with people who are builders and maintainers.

Most often, a leader who is a builder or a maintainer will buy a few books on small groups and then do the work of building or maintaining groups. This is true because we always do a job or a role in a way that fits our strengths or tendencies. A builder builds and a maintainer maintains, even if the situation calls for something else.

As a result, the group system that a church develops might very well have design flaws, even if they follow the instructions laid out in various books. Most of the time, churches need architects to come alongside the builders and maintainers in a local context and to help them apply the design principles in a way that fits the local situation thereby eliminating these design flaws as much as possible.

In most cases, an small group designer is only needed for a short time. Sometimes, he or she plays the role of a consultant. Sometimes a trainer. Sometimes that of a coach who walks alongside for a year or two. Good architects in the construction world are expensive, but you don’t want to skimp on the design. You will always pay more for fixing the flaws than you would if you had a good plan up front. The same it true for small group designs. You can go the cheap route and buy a book and start building. But you will most likely end up paying the price down the road, usually in the form of people getting hurt.

Find a good small group designer and get the help you need to establish a good design for your church. You want someone who is able to help you develop something local, something that fits your situation. You don’t want to just have someone come in and layout a universal plan that they give to everyone. Also note that different designers specialize in different things. Do your homework and find one that can provide the kind of design that you need.

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M. Scott Boren is a Teaching Pastor at Woodland Hills Church in Saint Paul, MN and consultant who partners with The Missional Network (www.themissionalnetwork.com). He has written and co-written eight books, including Introducing the Missional Church, Missional Small Groups and MissioRelate. He share life with his bride, Shawna, and their four children, all under the age of eight. He can be reached at his website: www.mscottboren.com.