A few months ago I was discouraged and struggling as a small group leader. I love leading groups and have led many over the last 36 years. But the one that my wife and I launched last fall has been our most challenging in all those years. Not too long ago the group seemed dead in the water—there was just a handful of people coming, we were doing all the work, and a key couple in the group was moving away. It seemed like our efforts to grow the group were not working. I felt like quitting.
Now, however, our group is going great and attendance has more than doubled. It’s a joy to lead to lead the group and to experience what God is doing in it. It was a matter of going back to the basics. Here’s 3 keys that we rediscovered to help revitalize a struggling group:
- Pray. Vicki and I started praying together for the group consistently. Duh!? I know what you may be thinking: “Jim, you’ve written great articles on the importance of prayer to small group leading!” I know, I know. I temporarily forgot how pivotal this is. So we started praying consistently for our small group, inviting God to work in new ways. And, you know what? He’s answering those prayers!
- Reach Out. We gave the group a new outward focus by implementing a “Blessing List.” The list is a laminated 11×15 page where we right the names of friends that need Christ and pray together for God to bless them and draw them to himself. When we introduced this, everyone gladly added a name of a friend, coworker, or family member. We take a few moments to pray for these friends that need God, each week right after our icebreaker time. People really like this and they asked us to email them the list so that they could also pray for these individuals throughout the week.
- Give ministry away. Before the turn around, we had been asking some people to step up and help with group responsibilities, but people weren’t saying “yes” when we asked. Then we made copies of the “Small Group Involvement” worksheet and passed it out one meeting inviting everyone to contribute in some way, giving them many options. Amazingly, everyone except one person signed up to help in at least one way. Some signed up to help with multiple things. So we have put people to work and this has both increased ownership and improved our meetings and group life.
It’s not rocket science. We went back to the basics. The four keys to small group health and growth are: pray, reach, care, and empower. (You can read about them by clicking here. Or, enjoy a full explanation in the Small Groups, Big Impact book.) We were weak in three of these four keys and when we strengthened them, things went to a whole new level.
What have you discovered or rediscovered recently about leading a life-giving group? What advice would you give to a small group leader who is discouraged about a struggling group?