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6 Things Not to Say About Small Group Ministry

Have you learned there are certain things that you should never say about small group ministry? Sometimes I cringe when I hear them. There’s definitely a list of things not to say that approach stupid. And sometimes I have the urge to say “ixnay on the oopid stay.”

There are a few things not to say:

1. “This is the way we’re going to do small group ministry from now on.” Trust me, this is a terrible one-liner and the cause of much unnecessary frustration and confusion. Fed up with the flaws of your current system? Far better to learn to say, “This new strategy will help us take the next step in connecting people…”

2. “If you’re ready to lead a small group, sign up today.” This is a recipe for disappointment. With a near guarantee that more than half of your sign-ups to lead groups will have below-the-waterline issues, it is almost never a good idea. Far better to rely on the HOST method to recruit volunteers (who will fill their own group ) or a small group connection (where the members choose a leader from amongst themselves). See also, Start with the End in Mind.

3. “If you’re ready to step up and be a small group coach, sign up today.” This is a terrible idea!  Settling for anything less than a high capacity candidate is never a good idea. Taking volunteers for coaches is guaranteed to stack your coaching team with people who will be fulfilled in having the title but ineffective at the job itself.  

4. “We’ve asked each our elders to be a coach.” Oh my…if I had a hundred dollars for every time I’ve heard this proposed as a viable way to build a coaching structure, I’d have a lot of money! Just because someone is qualified to serve as an elder (or any other leadership position) doesn’t mean they have what it takes to serve as a coach. See also, 6 Essential Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach.

5. “We’ve hired a small group pastor to be the small group champion.” Some senior pastors have a great challenge resisting this statement. If that’s you…resist!  If that’s your senior pastor, don’t let them go there. The senior pastor is the most influential person in nearly 100% of churches. The role of small group champion cannot be delegated. See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.

6. “There are 3 great ways to get connected here at Community Church: Small groups, Sunday school classes and discipleship groups.” Unless you are confident that all of your options include the same essential ingredients, you need to be very careful to resist the temptation to talk about the different options as if they are the same.  See also, 5 Essential Ingredients of Groups that Make Disciples and What Have You Designed Your Groups to Make.  

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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.