Clue #3 When Designing Your Small Group System

Every small group ministry system comes with its own unique set of problems.  None of them are problem-free.

This is a huge realization and essential for you to come to grips with the fact that every system, every strategy, has a set of problems that come with it.

At some level, we’re all in a kind of denial.  I’ve come to expect that all of us secretly believe that our preferred system is problem-free or nearly problem-free, when the truth is, we’ve never really given the situation a thorough and passion-free examination.

Can I walk you through this important exercise?  Here’s an example of a thorough and passion-free examination.  If you’ve been a reader here for any length of time, you know that I am a huge fan of the church-wide campaign strategy for launching groups.  I believe it is the most effective way to launch.  But it’s not problem-free.  Let me show you my own assessment of the primary weaknesses (problems) of the church-wide campaign strategy.

Church-Wide Campaign Strategy Problems:

  1. When you optimize the host ask, you will get some host volunteers that won’t meet even the lowest criteria.  You’ll have to actually talk with some of them and help them find another way to participate.
  2. To maximize the response requires narrowing the focus during the 4 to 6 weeks just prior to the launch of the campaign message series.  Because late September/early October is the best window to run the series, it means asking the other ministries to promote their baby another way.
  3. Your senior pastor is absolutely the best person to make the host ask.  Incorporating the ask into their sermon is the very best way to get a response.  Because not everyone attends every week, the ask must be made 2 or 3 weeks in a row.  It’s not unusual for senior pastors to resist being the one to ask.  It’s very common for them to not want to do it during their message.  If they haven’t resisted being the one to ask and they’ve been willing to incorporate it into their message…they will almost certainly frown on the idea of doing it 2 or 3 weeks in a row.
  4. The message series with the broadest outreach appeal are sometimes on topics that your senior pastor is uncomfortable doing (i.e., Love at Last Sight, One Month to Live, etc.).
  5. The message series your pastor may want to do aren’t on the easy end of the easy/hard continuum (i.e., they’re on a subject that is great for the usual suspects…but not for the folks that really need to get connected).

Disclosure: These are just the first 5 that came to my mind.  There are certainly others.  Many others.  But…and this is where you need to be sharp and pull in a team to play along…there are ways to mitigate every one of these problems.  I’ve chosen the church-wide campaign strategy as the primary way we launch new groups because I’d rather have these problems that any other set (here’s my top 10 articles on launching a church-wide campaign).

Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.

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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.