It has been almost a century since the church was challenged with a pandemic and its impact on church participation and member engagement. Frankly, most of us are struggling to know what to do, when. But one truth is indisputable: effective, healthy small groups are a catalyst to healthy, growing churches.
In a (hopefully) post-pandemic world, we need to exercise some urgency in re-engaging members who have “checked out” of their small groups, and reach new people who are starving for friendship and ministry.
Here are three principles and ideas to strengthen your plan and “revive” your small group ministry.
- Relationships – It is now, and will always be true, that small groups are about relationships. What makes small groups so important and functional for a church is their core value– relationships. When people feel loved, accepted and cared for, they are much more open to learning and applying biblical principles; which, by the way, is a core competency for making disciples. People learn and grow in their faith at different paces. In the context of relationships, we can guide people to move forward and still be there for them when they fail.
- Smaller Groups – Smaller groups function better and more efficiently than larger groups. Realistically, larger groups are easier to hide within and tend to lose more people over time. Smaller groups often do a better job of inviting new people, interact better during Bible study time and tend to be less lecture-oriented. Smaller groups also tend to do a better job of staying in touch and ministering to one another during a crisis. That leads to the question, “what is the ideal size for a small group?” That answer depends on the leader. Typically speaking, the optimum group size is 12 to 15 people. Yet, some effective leaders can manage and grow a group to 25-30 without losing ministry, care, creative bible teaching, and outreach. Remember, Jesus had 12 disciples, and even He lost one (Judas). The size of the group matters less than the ability of the leadership to have a healthy, growing small group.
- Intentional Ministry – If a group does not know its purpose or have goals and objectives to strive toward, they are simply gathering as friends for a time of sharing and Bible study. That’s not all bad if it meets the needs of the people in the group, but, two questions must be answered. First, is that group intentional about making disciples? Secondly, is that group intentional about reaching new people for Christ so they can also know Him and grow as a disciple? Making disciples who make disciples is the ultimate objective. If you aren’t planning and working toward that goal, you are not an intentional small group.
Here are a few ideas of how you can start new groups, right now.
- Launch a new group with folks who (pre-pandemic) were in a group, but haven’t come back. It might be that the former group wasn’t a good fit, or, it could be these people would feel more comfortable re-joining with a smaller, new group.
- Start a new group online. Online groups can transition to in-person groups later, when we finally reach a post-pandemic timeline. Occasionally, online groups can meet in person as small groups for fellowship, Bible study and to build relationships.
- Start groups that meet outside of traditional hours for groups. Consider different locations which might have less traffic and offer more space for people to stretch out. Some people are looking for convenience and accessibility; a different time and location might just be what they are seeking.
Starting new groups is a MUST if you want to begin to rebuild your small group ministry.
Give us a call and share your ideas and plans for starting new groups. We’d love to learn what you are doing, and offer additional input to help you get back on track with your small group ministry.