Having an incredible weekly worship experience is awesome. There is most definitely power in having the people of God gathering together to praise and celebrate. But most often, the real work of helping people become more like Christ — become true disciples of Jesus — happens when smaller groups of believers get together to study, to serve, and to really experience life together.
We work all the time with churches who want to launch or strengthen their small group ministries to help people connect with each other, and to lessen the number of people who slip out the ‘back door’ of church without truly becoming part of the community. Volunteer or service ministries often start with the same intentions. And while these are great intentions, they shouldn’t be the core focus of small groups or serving ministries. These environments should be first and foremost about making disciples.
Discipleship happens in relationships, in the one-on-one conversations and experiences around what God is doing in and through people. That’s how Jesus taught His disciples, and nobody’s come up with a better model yet! Smalls groups and service ministries are where relationships are formed and forged, and where discipleship really happens ... but only if you as a church make it a priority.
If small groups and volunteering in your church are first and foremost about discipleship, these things should be true in your church:
- You understand — and talk about — the fact that numbers matter, because you know that you can’t improve what you don’t measure.
- You care about taking attendance in small groups and recording who shows up to serve (not just who signed up to serve).
- You care about following up with new givers, recurring givers, first-time visitors, and first-time volunteers.
- You are intentional about raising up new leaders, because you know nothing makes us better disciples than discipling others.
- You care about leader and volunteer retention and appreciation.
- You track per capita giving and individual generosity, because growing in generosity is a key indicator in spiritual growth.
The last thing Jesus said to His disciples — the people He’d spent three years in one-on-one relationships with — was for them to go and make disciples of others just as He’d done. If that’s not your number one goal for your small groups and service ministries, you’re missing out on the tremendous potential for life change that could be happening in your church each and every week.
What are the real goals of your small groups and service ministries? How do you know you are succeeding?