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5 Simple Small Group Ministry Moves with Exponential Payoffs

Sometimes we know we need to make changes in our strategy, but we remain stuck because we’re focusing on the wrong variable.

Here are 5 simple small group ministry moves with exponential payoffs:

1. Clarify and simplify your “leader” requirements. What is in your current “leader” requirements that might be keeping the very first step into “leadership” from happening? For example, you may want small group leaders to be members, to complete new leader training, and to be connected to a coach. Is there are first step into leadership that can happen without membership? Perhaps a preliminary category will enable a much larger number of first steps into leadership (like the person who picks of a grab-and-go pack and invites their own friends to join).  

2. Focus on starting new groups. Whenever you have a choice, start new groups rather than adding new members to existing groups.  This may seem counterintuitive, but new groups have a much better chance of sticking than a new member added to an existing group.  Groups begin to form an almost impermeable membrane after as little as 12 to 18 meetings.  Who can break through an almost impermeable membrane?  Close friends of existing group members, extreme extroverts, and socially unaware people who have trouble picking up the signals other group members are giving off.  On the other hand, new groups offer everyone the best opportunity to connect on common ground.  

3. Add additional connecting opportunities to your annual calendar. Every strategically timed connecting opportunity allows another group of unconnected people to take a first step.  If you’re currently offering a once-a-year emphasis (church-wide campaign, small group connection or fair, Group Link, etc.), consider adding an additional opportunity or two at other strategic times.  Make sure you’re offering an assortment of strategies.  Remember, what works well for a particular kind of fish will not necessarily work on other kinds of fish!  S

4. Recruit “launch-phase” coaches to help new group leaders for 8 to 10 weeks. All you’re looking for are small group leaders who could walk alongside a brand new leader for their first 6 week study.  Connect by phone or in person for a check-in.  Focus on a simple set of four key questions.  It is a short-term commitment with a definite payoff since one of the two most important ingredients for new groups that continue is a “coach” who can help smooth out trouble spots in the first six weeks.  

5. Choose a great launching study and a great follow up study before your new groups begin. So simple and so often overlooked.  The connective tissue in most new groups is only occasionally strong enough to withstand the pressure of choosing a next study.  Don’t take that chance!  Offer a next study that is similar to the launching study in form (for example, if the first study was a DVD-driven, 6 weeks long, required no homework and was easy to lead…the follow-up study should be very similar).  

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mark@smallgroupresources.net'
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.