Home Small Group Leaders Articles for Small Group Leaders When Should I Launch Small Groups in My New Church?

When Should I Launch Small Groups in My New Church?

I get a lot of questions.  Here’s one I’ve gotten before and never answered in an article:

We launched our church in 2013 and have about 50 adults attending regularly.  About 40 percent of them are connected in church groups like choir and ushering. Do you suggest we start small groups or wait until we raise the adult worship attendance?

Great question, don’t you think?  Many of you may have an opinion, and I’d bet a fair number of you have actual experience in a church plant. I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

When Should We Launch Small Groups in Our Church Plant?

Keep in mind that there are several different strategies, and if you ask around, you’ll probably get several different answers.  I think there are two main ideas:

  • Wait until you’re large enough. Kerrick Thomas, Nelson Searcy’s executive pastor, recommends that you wait until you have over 100 adults attending before beginning small groups.  You can read his rationale right here.
  • Start small groups before you launch worship. Eric Metcalf, leadership director at the New Thing Network and a pastor at Community Christian Church, begins building small groups first and later launches a worship service.  You can read about this method right here.

I’ve seen it work both ways, and I’ve also seen it work to launch small groups at nearly the same time as the public worship service.  An important factor may be what you recognize as the purpose of a small group.  For example, if almost anyone can pick up a small group host kit and invite a couple of their friends to join them for a study, wouldn’t that be an excellent way to speed up outreach?  On the other hand, if you’re counting on your small group leaders to help establish a brand new culture, you’ll want to be extra careful about which leaders and groups you send new members to.

Personally, my small group strategy is designed to leverage the outreach potential found in unconnected people whose closest connections are with neighbors, friends, co-workers and family.  Rather than wait for my weekend adult attendance to reach a minimum size of 100, I’d look for ways to help foster a growing number of outsider focused groups.  See also, 7 Assumptions that Shape My Small Group Strategy.

What do you think?  Have an opinion?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.  

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Mark Howell serves as Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. He founded SmallGroupResources.net, 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 ChurchCentral.com.