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The Biggest Issue Facing Small Group Ministry

Why the picture of the gross bathtub?  Don’t worry, I’ll get to that in a second.  As a consultant I have the great privilege of speaking with churches all over the country about the challenges they face with their small group ministries.  In those conversations I’ve seen a recurring theme in many church small group ministries:  lack of leadership.  Ant that, in my estimation, this is the greatest problem with small group ministries today.

Because we are victims of the “fast food mentality” in our culture we look for quick fixes and short cuts.  Many churches and pastors are looking for a new small group model or approach that will yield faster results.  Many are looking for a system for small groups that will run itself.  Many are looking for ways to downplay the role of the “leader” in the small group itself.  The problem with all of these hopes and desires is that they neglect the one thing that makes every small group model or approach work:  leadership.

I’ve talked to many churches who have clunky-inefficient models and their small group ministries are thriving.  I’ve spoken to others who have slick-streamlined models and their small group ministries are struggling.  What’s the difference?  Leadership!

There are no shortcuts, there are no super-small-group-systems, there are no self-sustaining-systems.  Every model or system has it’s problems and the answer to those problems is good old-fashioned quality leadership.  In other words, every small group bathtub has leaks, and great leaders don’t go shopping for a new tub, instead they find ways to fix the leaks!

It’s fine if you want to call small group leaders “hosts” or “facilitators” (I’ve done that in my own small group ministries).  Just don’t think that by taking the word “leader” out of it that you’ve somehow taken leadership out of it.  As ministry leaders, it’s fine to establish smooth running, machine-like systems for your small group ministries.  Just don’t think for a minute that those systems won’t require leadership.

The bottom line is this:  if your small group ministry is sucking wind, resist the urge to look across the room and blame the leaky bathtub.  Instead, look in the mirror and ask how/why you’ve not been providing enough leadership.  You, the leader of your small group ministry, must find the capacity to fix the leaky bathtub.

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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.