Cody Binder leads our Account Management team here at Church Community Builder, and oversees that team’s work in strengthening the relationships we have with our church partners. In his conversations with those churches, he hears from quite a few church leaders who struggle with keeping their small group ministries engaged, growing, and staying true to the larger goals of the church. Few things are more frustrating in church leadership than small groups that go rogue and pursue the small group leader’s vision instead of the church’s vision.
So, as Cody and I compared notes from our numerous conversations with church leaders about this topic, I heard him share some fantastic thoughts I wanted to pass along here.
If you’re looking to develop a thriving, sustainable, and consistent small groups ministry, here are some key things Cody sees as necessary:
- In your first meeting with your small group leaders, cast a clear vision for your ministry right out of the gate. Start your agenda with a clear statement around why small groups are important for growing disciples, and why it’s important to keep the small group experience relatively consistent across groups. Consistency is key to helping people grow in spiritual maturity and grow in ways you can clearly see. Help each leader understand that their group is part of something much bigger than their own study or their own group’s dynamics.
- Develop a consistent format for small groups. What are the groups going to talk about? Will you share the same curriculum across all groups, or will group leaders have the freedom to choose materials? Will you break into gender-specific groups for prayer? Whatever you decide needs to be relatively consistent across all your group meetings. You don’t have to micromanage every detail (and you shouldn’t!), but it is important for group leaders to know that they’re part of something the entire church is committed to doing together.
- Implement a scalable model for shepherding. One leader can’t effectively equip more than seven group leaders at one time. As a pastor or church leader, you are a person of finite resources constantly being exposed to infinite need. Jesus equipped 12 disciples, but he spent extra focused time with only three of those men. That means it’s essential for you to develop a middle level of leadership and coaching for your small group leaders. Each ‘coach’ oversees and serves three to five group leaders, and these coaches report up to your small groups or discipleship pastor. If you’re leading a bigger church, you may even have directors who oversee your coaches and then report up to your pastoral team. However large your church, make sure there’s a system in place to care for and support your small group leaders that doesn’t rest solely on your pastors.
- Meet regularly with your leaders. These leaders are on the front lines of your discipleship efforts, and they need to know you care about them. They need to be continually equipped, encouraged, prayed for, held accountable, and challenged by your leadership team (pastors, directors, and coaches). Make sure you’re connecting regularly with these leaders and building trust through the relationships you’ve developed. Meet them for lunch or coffee or whatever works to stay connected to your small group leaders.
- Measure your ministry effectiveness. If you’ve been around any of our Church Community Builder associates for long, you know how firmly we believe that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. Measure small group attendance. Know who’s attending regularly and who’s fallen off the radar. If a small group leader stops reporting attendance, that’s a red flag that needs attention from your leadership team ASAP. For Church Community Builder church partners, we make this as easy as possible.
I’m so grateful I get to work alongside leaders like Cody who are helping churches improve their small groups ministries and discipleship processes. This is incredibly important work that our church partners are doing, and we love coming alongside them to help. You can always find out more about how Church Community Builder’s solutions can help your discipleship efforts over on our Software page./p>
How do you keep your small groups from ‘going rogue’? Do you follow these steps as you equip your leaders?