Every high-quality small group ministry will have unofficial small groups, groups that start on their own after seeing what your organized groups are doing or groups of people who are living out biblical community organically. When the small group pastor is made aware of these groups there is one of three ways to handle these groups.
- Allow the group to continue as they are without interruption. Pray for these groups and honor them as gifts from God.
- Approach the most influential person in the group (or the designated group leader). Let them know that you would be honored if the group would consider becoming part of the small group system. Point out the advantages of becoming part of the church's small group ministry. Be sure to include training opportunities, a coach to help them in their growth as a leader, financial assistance from the church (if your church does assist in the purchase of materials or other things), networking with a other small group leaders, ongoing encouragement, and assistance with childcare (if your church aids in finding individuals to do childcare or financial assistance is available in paying for childcare).
- Allow the group to continue without interruption utilizing the group when the church is doing church-wide campaigns. If you believe it will enhance the church's ministry, at the end of each campaign invite the unofficial small group to join the church's small group ministry. In most instances the group leader will be more likely to consider this following a campaign as the leader has experienced what it feels like to be part of the small group team.
I am convinced that many people are in a small group and just don't know it. For ten years I was a collegiate minister in Kentucky. There were about twelve other college ministers planted on various colleges and universities around the state. The years I spent with these incredible men and women unveiled small group life to me in amazing ways. While we didn't meet weekly, we really did do life together.
We lived out each of the one another principles without ever discussing them or agreeing to live them out…
Love Each Other:
1. to fulfill God's law (Romans 13:8)
2. to increase our love for one another (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
3. to overflow in love for one another (1 Thessalonians 3:12)
4. to cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)
Connect with Each Other in Integrity:
1. to fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7)
2. to forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13)
3. to greet one another with healthy touch (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14)
4. to wait for one another to break bread (1 Corinthians 11:33)
5. to help one another through difficult times (1 Corinthians 12:26)
Serve Each Other:
1. to use our spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10)
2. to love, relinquishing our freedom when necessary (Galatians 5:13)
3. to show kindness and pursue what is good for one another (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
4. to show concern for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
5. to carry one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2)
6. to show honor as you "wash one another's feet" (John 13:14)
7. to work with one another (1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1)
Teach Each Other:
1. to teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
2. to instruct and model Jesus to one another (Romans 15:14)
Encourage Each Other:
1. to encourage one another to avoid deception and live for Christ (Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 10:25)
2. to speak the truth to one another (Ephesians 4:25)
3. to lay down our lives for one another (1 John 3:16)
4. to spur one another on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)
Build Up Each Other:
1. to strengthen one another in tough times (1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11)
2. to share a psalm, a teaching, or a revelation (1 Corinthians 14:26)
Meet Each Other's Spiritual Needs:
1. to confess our sins one to another (James 5:16)
2. to pray for one another (James 5:16)
Live a Life of Humility Toward Each Other:
1. to honor others above ourselves (Romans 12:10)
2. to be in agreement or of the same mind one with each other (2 Corinthians 13:11; Romans 12:16 and 15:5)
3. so as not to criticize or judge one another (Romans 14:13; James 4:11)
4. so as not to complain or speak badly of one another (James 5:9)
5. to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
6. to be clothed with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)
Live in Harmony with Each Other:
1. to be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2)
2. to live in peace one with another (Mark 9:50)
3. to accept and welcome one another with hospitality (Romans 15:7; 1 Peter 4:9)
4. to glorify God together (Romans 15:6
Was this band of passionate college ministers a small group? Only if you consider a dozen or so followers of Jesus living out biblical community a small group. Or maybe, just maybe we were something more than a small group. Maybe we were a band of sisters and brothers being the church for one another. Either way, I wish every person on the planet could experience what we experienced together.
Small group pastor… Look around you. You may have a substantial number of small groups already meeting, groups that don't show on your flow chart but are precisely what you're asking groups to be. And a word of advice… Be careful to bless them rather than curse them. They may have been put together by God Himself.
I just finished a tour of the new smallgrouptrader.com online training. It's only in BETA right now but it will be available to all of us come January. If you've struggled with the training of new and well-versed small group leaders, you need to peer into this space in January.
A few of the fantastic aspects of this online training are noted below:
- A small group pastor or coach can create his/her own training videos or articles that will show up on their personalized training page.
- A small group pastor or coach will have access to the training videos or articles created by any church leader who has given permission for you to access and send their stuff to your leaders. I would imagine almost everyone will make their stuff available.
- A small group pastor or coach will be able to e-mail training videos or articles of their choosing to a small group leader.
- The small group pastor or coach will receive an e-mail when a small group leader has completed the training piece the small group pastor or coach sent to the small group leader.
- The small group pastor or coach can send a list of possible resources/curriculum pieces the small group might like to consider along with the training video or article. These will be hand-picked by the small group pastor or coach.
While I'm certain I've oversimplified the magnificence of this training, I can assure you, you will want to check this out. It may change the way we look at small group leader training.
Followers need leaders who are clearly defining four essentials. Without doing so, followers will find themselves lost in a pool of confusion, doubt, and misunderstanding. Ultimately the leader will lose her/his influence and those they once led will find someplace else to serve or will not serve at all.
Those four essentials are…
Clear Vision… Without clearly and consistently describing the ministry's vision (a mental image of the final outcome) followers will lose passion for the work.
Clear Strategy… Without a clear understanding of the strategy being used to accomplish the vision, followers create their own and go to work. Chaos will ensue as there will overlapping of work, role confusion, and followers will become discouraged.
Clear Expectations (of all followers at all levels)… Without clearly laying out the distinct responsibilities of every person on the team followers will not know what to do and will wait to go to work until someone tells them. In time, if they are not given a job description (in writing or verbally) they will quietly drift away never to be seen again.
Clear Markers of Success (for all followers at all levels)… Without clearly defining what success is followers will struggle to accomplish the work with the proficiency and expertise you had anticipated they would.
Other Leadership Blog Posts:
Jesus taught the disciples to pray. Shouldn’t we do the same?
I’ve been in ministry for 36 years now. An unforgettable ministry conversation took place one afternoon after our Sunday gathering of Christ-followers. One of the small group leaders at our church was speaking with me about the growth he was seeing in his small group members. I was already on the edge of my seat but when he told me about one of the members who had prayed aloud for the very first time the week prior I was trounced on by a dancing heart. And as I was driving home that day, my tear ducts got into the game. You see, the “first time out-louder” the small group leader was telling me about has a fantastic wife and two incredible sons. During my drive home that afternoon I realized that these young boys were going to grow up in a home where dad prayed for them at the dinner table, by their beds, on vacation, etc… The list could go on and on. And those kids will do with their own children what they have seen their dad do. Because a small group leader took the time and strategically was teaching his small group members to pray aloud a mountain of believers for generations to come will know what it means to be prayed for by godly, caring parents and as those children realize that God is real and alive they will want to know about His Son Jesus and will most likely choose a relationship with Him.
It is vital that small group leaders teach those in our groups how to pray… aloud.
Below you’ll find a simple step-by-step process that will help you as you teach small group members how to pray aloud.
LEVEL ONE: The Leader prays and models conversational prayer. The term “conversational” is important. Exhibiting a preacher voice, speaking in old English terms, or sounding as though you’ve swallowed a pile of “o pity me’s” will only confuse the small group member who longs to have an authentic relationship with Jesus.
LEVEL TWO: The Leader asks for volunteers and sees who emerges after it has been modeled for a couple of weeks.
LEVEL THREE: The Leader calls on two people to pray who have been volunteering and then the leader closes in prayer.
LEVEL FOUR: The Leader leads the group to “Complete the Sentence.” This could be a sentence like, “God, this is ______, I want to thank you for________, or God, would you help with ________.” The leader lets everyone know that if you prefer to pray silently to God instead of out loud, just let the group know by squeezing the hand of the person next to you (if the group is that close) or say the word ‘Amen’ to indicate you are going to pray silently. This is for those who still haven’t gotten into voicing prayers aloud. This is a giant first step for them.
LEVEL FIVE: The group grows to the place where they can pray conversationally as a group using this method: A prayer request is shared and the group spends time praying "sentence prayers" about that specific request before moving on to the next prayer request.”
You probably noticed that these are baby steps moving toward full-fledged paragraph prayers. In time, this will come naturally.
First year small group leaders are forced into situations they never thought about when they agreed to become small group leaders. In fact, for some of them, had they known what they were getting into, they might have hesitated to say yes to your request to lead a group. I wanted to give you a few links to blog posts that might answer some of the most often asked questions new leaders might be asking.
Just click on the title to go to a blog post on that particular topic.
What should we do about childcare?
What do I do about the overly talkative group member?
What should I do when most of the small group doesn't show up for the group meeting?
How do I get group members to talk more during the meeting?
How do I get group members to make a meaningful commitment to the small group?
How can I bring our Bible study time to life?
How do we handle confrontation in the group?
How do I make sure that our conversational Bible study isn't a night of shared ignorance?
New small group leaders have many questions that need to be answered. If you're the small group pastor you'll find yourself spending many hours answering the same questions again and again. This isn't a bad thing but it can be avoided. Below are some tools that you may want to make available to your small group leaders, tools that will answer most of the questions your small group leaders will ask of you. Just click on the title to either go to the website or see where to purchase the book.
Consider getting each small group leaders a copy of one of the following books. Each of these is an easy read reference guide for small group leaders.:
- Leading Life-Changing Small Groups by Bill Donahue, http://www.lifeway.com/product/001120924/
- The Pocket Guide to Leading a Small Group by Dave Early and Rod Dempsey, http://www.amazon.com/Pocket-Guide-Leading-Small-Group/dp/0978877926/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284557167&sr=8-1
- Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual by Rick Howerton, http://www.lifeway.com/product/005038477/
Make your small group leaders aware of the following blogs. Each of these has a number of quick reads that answer the questions they may be asking.:
- Allen White's Brookwood Small Groups, http://upstategroups.typepad.com/upstate_groups_blog/small-group-questions/
- Michael Mack's Small Group Leadership, http://smallgroupleadership.blogspot.com/
- Rick Howerton's Small Group World (you're already here)
Connect your small group leaders to the following websites. Before turning your leaders to these websites you'll want to check them out and see what the fees are for utilization of them.: