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Small-church-group-growthOnce you make the decision that small groups will be your primary (or only) delivery system for connection and discipleship, it only makes sense to look for ways to accelerate small group ministry growth and impact.

Here are what I’ve found to be 6 keys:

1. Your senior pastor must become the primary spokesperson and champion. Although I’ve not ranked these 6 keys in order of importance, there is no question that this a very important key. If you want to build a thriving small group ministry, there is no workaround for the absence of this key. See also "Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church of Groups."

2. Move from promoting a menu of options ("buffet") to a single next step (“plated meal”). In its optimum form, this includes all types of promotion (verbal, print and web). Moving to a single next step is a very underappreciated move. At the same time, I’m not sure its power can be overstated. See also "A 'Plated Meal' Leads to a Church of Groups" and "10 Ideas That Have Shaped My Philosophy of Ministry."

3. Rethink minimum leadership requirements to make it easy to begin and nearly automatic to continue. This may seem completely counterintuitive, but if you want to accelerate small group ministry growth and impact, making the first step into leadership an easy, toe-in-the-water step is essential. See also "Do You Know This Game-Changing Connection Secret?" and "Leader Qualification: Raising the Bar, Lowering the Bar and Open Bar."

4. Focus affinity ministry efforts (i.e., men’s, women’s, couples and singles) on creating steps, not destinations. Specialized events and short-term groups that are designed to appeal to specific affinities can be great first steps out of the anonymity of the auditorium. They can also be invite opportunities (i.e., first steps for friends). Thoughtful design can also build in next steps that lead to a group. See also "Three Distinctives of North Point’s Access Group Strategy" and "Design Your Connection Strategy With Unconnected People in Mind."

5. Rewrite staff scorecards to clarify wins related to small group ministry growth and impact. Clarifying an organizational win is one thing. Drilling down to identify wins at the individual staff member level is an essential ingredient if you want to accelerate ministry growth and impact. See also "Who: The A Method for Hiring."

6. Allocate resources (budget, on-campus space, staffing, etc.) to support small group ministry growth and impact. Want to accelerate small group ministry growth and impact? Is it reflected in the way you’re allocating resources? If you want to build a pervasive small group ministry, it will be reflected in the budget (staff, leader development, promotion, church-wide campaign, etc.). It will also be reflected in things like the way on-campus space is allocated (i.e., in the competition for space, events/steps that lead to group life will be prioritized over “destinations” that are ends in themselves). See also "Quotebook: Allocating Finite Resources."

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.

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