One of the initial steps to take in order to launch (or re-launch) a small groups ministry, is to design and define your groups model. Paying close attention to this step will reduce confusion, attract the right leaders and filter out people’s personal agendas and/or past experiences.
There are roughly 10 or so different small group ministry models that have been implemented effectively. There is a lot of variety out there because every church is different and group models are not a one-size-fits-all program. In fact, there are no perfect small group ministry models.
Did you catch that?
This is important because many churches fail to proceed with small groups because an influential leader asks, “What about this?” or “What about that?” There will always be pros and cons to any small groups approach, but we can’t let the cons con us into doing nothing. If we believe followers of Christ are formed in biblical community, then we need to be willing to experiment, take risks and adjust things as we learn.
Here are 10 questions to ask yourself when designing your small group ministry model…
1. How long is your group duration?
Do you want your groups to be short-term groups or do you want to them to be ongoing groups? Short-term groups can meet for a semester with a pre-determined length (6-14 weeks). Ongoing groups can meet all the time for a lifetime.
Making the effort to clearly communicate this will clarify your expectations.
2. Where do you want your groups to meet?
Do you want your groups to meet on-site at the church facility? Do you want them to meet in homes? Can they meet in any fellowship-friendly environment?
3. When do your groups meet?
Is there a day and time of the week you want your groups to meet? Do you have 2-3 options for groups to choose from? Can groups meet any day and time they want to?
4. What is your group frequency?
How often do you want your groups to meet? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? All of the above?
5. Are your groups open or closed?
An open group means that first-time guests are always welcome to a group. A closed group means that no new people may be added to an existing group.
6. How big is a small group?
How many people is too many people? How few are too few? What happens if there are too many people or too few people?
7. Do your groups have a target audience?
Are your groups supposed to be location-based (people attend the nearest group to their home) affinity-based (men, women, couples, singles, etc), life-stage based (college, pre-marital, newlywed, parents, empty nesters, etc) or are they intergenerational (mixture of affinities and life-stages)?
8. What happens at a group meeting?
Are they mainly groups for fellowship only? Is there a group meeting format you have in mind? Is there curriculum you want them to use? Is the curriculum DVD-driven? How long should a typical group meeting last?
9. How is the group curriculum determined?
Does the leader select the curriculum for their group or does the church? Is there a pre-existing library of church-approved group curriculum? Will the groups build upon the weekend message?
10. How does the small group ministry grow?
What are the strategic ways to develop new leaders and start new groups?
There is a lot more I could say on the different options for each question but that would be a much longer article. Defining your model though, helps you determine your calendar, your training and your strategies.
Have you clearly defined your groups model? Which questions do you need to communicate the answer to better? What is the question you are wrestling with the most?