3 Essential Questions for Every Small Group Ministry

I recently had the privilege of speaking at the Right Now Conference in Dallas.  This is one of my favorite conferences every year because the thrust of the conference is all about mission and small groups.  In one session I got to participate in a panel with Steve Gladen (Saddleback Church), Steve Yarrow (Northridge Church, Detroit), and Taylor Roberts (Vintage21 Church, Raleigh, NC).  We spoke about the questions that should be asked when starting a small group ministry.

For today’s post I’m highlighting just three of the questions we discussed because I believe they are applicable to ALL small group ministries whether old or new.  You’ll notice that each question is followed by a subset of questions.  By answering the subsets you’ll find your answers to the 3 main questions.  You’ll also notice that this post is missing my usual commentary.  That’s because I don’t want my opinions or answers to jade yours.

Take some time over the next couple of weeks and really answer these questions.  I believe this exercise will help you discover what’s broken in your ministry, how to avoid potential pitfalls, and clarity regarding the systems and strategies you should use.


1. What do you want groups to accomplish?

  • Why does your church need groups?
  • What is the biblical reasoning for this ministry?
  • What defines a “win” for a small group in your context?
  • What is the definition of “group” in your context or what makes a group a “group”? (e.g. frequency of meeting, group size, mission/purpose)

2. What is the Structure/Control DNA of your Church?

  • Does your church more often structure for growth or control?
  • Is your Senior pastor more “go with the flow” or more “I want to know every detail”?
  • What do you desire more: A faster growing small group ministry or highly trained small group leaders?
  • Which does your Senior Leadership prefer?
  • Is your church better equipped to handle the problems associated with growth or control?

3. What is your unit of one? 

  • What is your mental picture of an ideal leader?
  • How realistic is that mental picture? This is your “unit of one” for leaders.
  • What is a “disciple” in your context?
  • How do you know someone is a disciple in your context? This is your “unit of one” for disciples.
  • How do you envision reproducing these mental pictures of leaders and disciples? What systems, strategies, and models will help you best reproduce your units of one?
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Alan Danielson
Alan Danielson is the Lead Pastor of a church that’s probably a lot like yours. New Life Bible Church is a church of a few hundred people, but not long ago he was on the executive staff of Life.Church in Edmond, OK. Now, along with pastoring New Life, Alan is a consultant and has worked with many of America’s largest churches. Despite this, Alan has a passion for the small church. That’s why he lives by the personal conviction that no church is too small for him to work with. Alan founded Triple-Threat Solutions to help leaders of and churches of all sizes grow. Learn more from Alan at http://www.3Threat.net.