Top 10 Reasons My Church Has a Long Way to Go (in small group ministry)

Top 10 Reasons My Church Has a Long Way to Go (in small group ministry)

I’ve shared a few top 10 lists with reasons Saddleback, North Point and North Coast have had great success with their small group ministries.

I thought it might be time for me to share why my church still has a long way to go in its small group ministry efforts before we make the who’s who list ourselves.

Depending on your own progress in building a thriving small group ministry, you might want to spend some time talking about my list and developing your own. Until we are crystal clear on the state of our own present it remains impossible to arrive at our preferred future.

Here are my top 10 reasons we have a long way to go:

1. Our groups pastor (me) isn’t staying 100 percent focused on our groups ministry. I will acknowledge that as a member of our lead team I have responsibilities beyond groups. At the same time, I must acknowledge that accomplishing our mission and reaching anywhere near the preferred future we have identified will require a much greater focus than I have given.

2. We still haven’t narrowed the focus enough to help unconnected people know for sure what is important. We have made very good strides in the direction of a narrow focus. We’ve reduced the offerings on the buffet, but we still have a buffet. It’s not easy to find the buffet…but it’s still there.

3. We are still figuring out how to consistently tell the stories that establish that it is essential to be in a group. This is almost entirely a matter of prioritizing the collection of stories. The stories are there. We hear them when we ask the right questions or happen to be standing in the right place. But if we prioritized their collection we’d never lack for a great story about the power of community.

4. Too few of our coaches are effectively doing TO and FOR our leaders what we want our leaders doing TO and FOR their members. Although our span of care (the coach to leader ratio) is improving and looks much better on paper, beautiful org charts do not produce results. Span of care is important, but only if leaders are being cared for in a way that impacts the members of their groups.

5. Our senior pastor and teaching pastors mention groups regularly but only occasionally have the stories they need to be convincing and compelling. Unconnected people are rarely convinced to put a toe in the water with hum drum announcements and pronouncements. Testimonials and satisfied customers sell more than soap and weight loss products. If we want to connect unconnected people we need to be better at collecting stories and using them compellingly in message after message, service after service.

6. Our annual church-wide campaign has been hit or miss with focused energy and effectiveness. There is no question in my mind that a well-run and executed annual church-wide campaign provides the greatest opportunity to connect the largest number of unconnected people. It is simple to do but definitely not easy. Missteps and false starts are so common! Skillful execution can lead to a home run and be followed the very next year with an overconfident and half-hearted swing. If we want to optimize the results of this powerful strategy, I need to be much more dedicated to execution.

7. We have relied too heavily on just-in-time leader training and haven’t invested enough energy in a leadership development system. Yes, some of our reliance on just-in-time leader training is simply the result of my commitment to make it as easy as possible to begin to lead (to build the bridge as we walk on it), knowing that in order to connect the vast number of unconnected people (whose windows are closing) we’ve got to act now and not wait for systems to be developed. Still, we need to work harder and exert more energy in building the leadership development conveyor belt for our newest leaders to step onto.

8. We haven’t identified the right ingredients that will help experienced leaders stay invested in their own development. It is far too common for new leaders to form groups and slip away before they develop the connective tissue, rhythm and desire for their own development. We need to be on an all out hunt for these missing ingredients.

9. We haven’t created a compelling sense of responsibility for our experienced leaders to prioritize investing in an apprentice. While apprenticing is clearly not a strategy that multiplies groups dependably and at the pace we need, we are leaving a massive opportunity on the table. We must make apprenticing a priority and we must make it a priority immediately.

10. We haven’t built a culture that makes leadership development both an ordinary and an extraordinary experience. This must become a system-wide preoccupation. While this is not something I can do alone, it is a preoccupation by which I must be seized.

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Mark Howell
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.