Small groups
Senior pastor, are you part of a small group?

Senior pastors, you need to know something. If you want authentic community to flourish in your church, it begins with you. It must begin with you.

I don’t know what has prompted your hope for authentic community to take hold in your church. Maybe you’ve listened to Rick Warren or Andy Stanley or Bill Hybels talk about their own personal small groups and how important they’ve been in their own lives. Maybe you’ve come to it through your own insight from Scripture that you can’t do the "one anothers" in rows. (See also "The Real Reason Saddleback Connects So Many in Small Groups" and "Andy Stanley on Creating a Culture That’s All About Circles.")

I don’t know. But I do know this: If you want authentic community to flourish in your church, it begins with you. It must begin with you because the hope that your congregation will experience something different or more than your own experience isn’t anchored in reality. If you want your congregation to experience authentic community, it begins with you. (See also "Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church of Groups" and "5 Things Senior Pastors Need to Know About Small Group Ministry.")

And the question might be: If you’re not in a small group now, how can it begin with you?

Here are five ideas to help you get started:

1. Start your group as a test drive. You don’t have to begin with a lifetime commitment. It’s OK to start with a toe in the water. “Would you do this six-week study with me (or with us)?” You’ll probably begin to get the hang of it in about week three or four. When you get to about week five, you might actually start looking forward to spending time with your group.

2. Hand-pick the members of your group. It shouldn’t be open to everyone. Hand-selecting your group members will give you (and your spouse) confidence that you can do life together. Choose people you like to spend time with. Choose people who are refreshing to be around. Choose people you already trust. Be prepared to say, “I hope you understand, but our group isn’t an open group. Might be someday, but not right now.”

3. You don’t have to lead your group. When you include the right members, the group doesn’t need to meet at your house and you won’t need to facilitate the meetings or provide all the snacks. Your group meetings can be all about building relationships and experiencing authentic community.

4. Choose the best possible time for you and your family. Your group can also meet with the frequency that works for you. You know the rhythm of your life. Choose a meeting time that makes sense for you. The right members will accommodate your situation. Note: Frequency is an important ingredient of authentic community. The more frequently you meet, the easier it becomes to reconnect.

5. Choose a study that requires no preparation. It shouldn’t be work or one more thing to get done. Choosing a simple “show up” study makes it easy to focus on relationships.

Mark Howell is the founder of, committed to helping churches launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He’s also the pastor of discipleship communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church. You can read Mark’s blog at or follow him on Twitter.

For the original article, visit

Leaders are readers! Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Ministry Today, Charisma and SpiritLed Woman all for $24. YES - I'm a leader!

Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Discouragement can be a serious struggle.

    Guard Your Spirit Against These 4 Crippling Attacks

    Are you struggling this Valentine's Day with one of these discouraging issues?

  • Some of the toughest lessons reap the greatest rewards.

    10 Tough Lessons Every Pastor Should Remember in Ground-Shaking Trials

    One is that your suffering may turn out to be the highest compliment the Father ever gave you.

  • Why Many Christians Misunderstand This Crucial Leadership Trait

    Great leadership doesn't start with a great education, although that is incredibly valuable. ...

  • Worship leaders, keep your team's attitude in check.

    This Can Quickly Erode a Worship Team's Culture

    God has given us talent and He calls for excellence, but excellence with this is not honoring ...

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • Your Source of Unlimited Kingdom Energy and Power

    Jesus said that we can do greater works than He did and that He will do whatever we ask in His Name.

  • What reasons can you think of that leaders might not choose to delegate authority?

    7 Reasons Some Leaders Dump Delegation

    These could have a lot to do with stalled growth and low team morale.

  • These seven responses can get you on the right track.

    Responding Like Jesus When Your Church Kicks You Out

    It's a pain that many in the ministry have felt at least once and maybe more.

  • A 'What's in it for me?' mentality could bring your church down.

    The Mentality That May Be Killing Your Church

    And we wonder why so many congregations are stagnated, plateaued or declining.

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders