I've written about the powerful benefits of a thriving small-group ministry and the five easily overlooked secrets to building a thriving small-group ministry. But as it turns out, I've never written a how-to guide.
Here are 5 ways to build a thriving small-group ministry:
1. Thoughtfully (and honestly) diagnose the current state of your church. Ask yourself the questions I ask when evaluating a small-group ministry. Determine your percentage connected and the complexity of your next-step menu. Without an accurate sense of where you are, you should not expect to make correct choices about how to get where you want to go.
2. Determine what you hope to see happen in the lives of group members. This is one of the most important questions you can answer. The answer to this question tells you what you need to do to and for your leaders (the kinds of experiences you need to give them) and that should inform your understanding of the importance of coaching.
3. Choose an appropriate small-group system, model or strategy. This is a critical decision. An honest diagnosis of the current state of your church, coupled with clarity about what you hope to produce in the lives of group members, should inform your decision about the small-group system that will get you where you want to go. The most common cause of a small-group ministry's failure to thrive is choosing an inadequate model.
4. Allocate resources sufficient to the task. If you thought steps one, two and three were hard, then step four is going to make them seem like a piece of cake. In order to build a thriving small-group ministry you must allocate resources sufficient to the task. That means you are going to need to make changes to the budget. It probably means you're going to need to REallocate your existing budget. After all, most of us are not in a position to add significantly to the existing budget. Further, you're going to need to reallocate sufficient high-capacity volunteers. You're going to need to reallocate the events and ministries that are promoted in the weekend service. You're going to need to reallocate the space on your website. I like what Carl George said about this very topic: "Leaders allocate the finite resources of the organization to the critical growth path." See also "Budgeting for the Preferred Future."
5. Keep one eye on the preferred future and the other on the very next milestone. Building a thriving small-group ministry is not a sprint. It is a marathon. It is not something you do in 12 months. It is something you do in 12 years. Staying the course; becoming better and better at building next steps that are easy, obvious and strategic; and learning the best way to connect unconnected people into groups that make disciples is an epic adventure. It is a journey worth taking. See also, "Are We There Yet? Milestones that Lead to the Preferred Future."
Ready to get started? I've included enough right here to get you moving in the right direction.
Need more help? Take a look at "Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry" (my four-session short course). It may be just the thing to help you on your way to building a thriving small-group ministry.
Mark Howell is the founder of SmallGroupResources.net, 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 www.markhowelllive.com or follow him on Twitter.
For the original article, visit pastors.com.
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