The more I consult with churches around the country, the more obvious it is that there is a very basic set of reasons why small group ministries succeed. There is also a basic set of reasons why small group ministries fail. See also, Top 10 DNA Markers of Churches with Thriving Small Group Cultures.
Here are 5 reasons small group ministries fail:
1. Switching models on an annual basis. Who hasn’t come home from a conference or read the hottest new book on small groups and at the very least felt the urge to switch? Idea fatigue and shiny object syndrome are the names for this illness. Trust me. When you choose a system you need to commit to it for 3 years. See also, How to Choose a Small Group Model or Strategy and Top 10 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Is Schizophrenic.
2. Sticking with an ineffective model. Unfortunately, one of the hardest lessons to learn is that there really is a connection between design and results. Andy Stanley says, “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you’re currently experiencing.” If I had a dollar for every time a small group pastor told me that apprenticing was producing enough new leaders or that raising the leadership bar enabled them to exceed 100% of their adult weekend attendance in groups…I’d change my tune. Until then, be quick to acknowledge that your results are directly connected to your design. If you don’t like the results, it might be time to reevaluate and adopt a different model. See also,Evaluate Your Small Group Ministry with My Signature 10 Point Checklist.
3. Offering small groups as an entrée on a buffet. If you want to build a thriving small group ministry, you must position small groups as the way to get connected and grow in Christ. As long as you are willing to position small groups as one way among several options…you cannot expect to succeed. See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu.
4. Hit and miss emphasis of small group ministry. Unconnected people are infrequent attenders. Connected people are regular attenders. If you want to connect unconnected people you must take advantage of every opportunity to promote small groups. Use your senior pastor’s messages, personal testimonies, the website, church-wide email from your senior pastor, the bulletin, newsletters, etc. And here’s the key: If you want to build a thriving small group ministry…there shouldn’t be a week that goes by where you aren’t talking about small groups. See also, Top 10 Reasons Saddleback Has Connected Over 130% in Groups.
5. Lack of commitment to leader care and development. Launching new small groups is easy. Sustaining new groups is not easy. If you want to sustain a high percentage of the new groups you launch, you must make a commitment to leader care and development (i.e., build an effective coaching structure). Putting energy and resources into launching new small groups without committing to leader care and development is poor stewardship and leads to small group ministry failure. See also,How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
Are you building a thriving small group ministry? Or is yours struggling? Which of the 5 totally obvious reasons is the culprit?