An Analysis of Sermon-Based Small Group Strategy

I am regularly asked about the wisdom or effectiveness of a sermon-based strategy.  Underlying the question many times is the sense that providing a study to be used will keep groups from straying from the well trodden pathway.  And I have to admit that at some level there is  wisdom behind what they are asking.  See also, Sermon Based Small Groups.

There is wisdom behind what they are asking…but there is also a set of assumptions that need to be unearthed and evaluated.  Only after evaluating will it make sense to embrace, discard or modify.

Common assumptions that accompany a sermon-based group strategy:

  • A sermon-based group curriculum allows members to ask questions and discuss the weekend message (hard to argue with that)
  • A sermon-based strategy encourages one conversation among the congregation’s adult participants (again, hard to argue with the benefit, at least periodically, of this idea)
  • A sermon-based curriculum can be produced in-house, ensuring theological orthodoxy while keeping the cost down (perhaps the cost of curriculum can be minimized, but ensuring theological orthodoxy has more to do with the leader)
  • Sermon-based curriculum makes it possible to intentionally target particular aspects of spiritual growth

Observations about sermon-based strategies:

  • The invitation to join our group as we dig in deeper to our pastor’s message is often less appealing to friends, neighbors, co-workers and family than an intentionally selected cross-cultural topic.  
  • Small group studies based on expository sermons, especially lengthy verse-by-verse through a book of the Bible, are a often a tougher invite for unconnected people.
  • Variety is present in virtually every other arena (restaurants, television programming, neighborhoods, etc.) and the entire customer base is targeted and served by anticipating individual tastes.

My Takeaways:

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Mark Howell
Mark Howell serves as Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. He founded, offering consulting and coaching services to help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He spent four years on the consulting staff at Lifetogether and often contributes to ministry periodicals such as the Pastor's Ministry Toolbox and

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