Questions to ask when considering a small group strategy: Part 2

Yesterday, I outlined 5 of 10 initial questions I have for any church that is evaluating their small group strategy. Those questions included the place in the church’s discipleship strategy, goals on involvement, what to do with kids, the definition of a small group and the objectives of a small group. Let’s pick up right there with another 5 critical questions any church must answer in moving forward with a small group strategy.

  • Relation to congregational care: What is the connection between small groups and congregational care? Done well, I believe it can be the primary congregational care structure. When someone is in a small group, it is that group that takes initiative for visiting in the hospital, that facilitates meals when a baby is born, etc. Bill Hybels tells the story of going to visit someone in the hospital only to find the entire small group gathered around the person. He was basically told, “You’re not needed here. We’ve got this.” That is the opportunity of small groups for pastoral care.
  • Connection to preaching: Again, this is a big philosophical question. How is the weekly preaching of God’s Word and the teaching of small groups related. For some, there is no connection. People hear a sermon on one topic and their group studies something else. There are others where every group has to use the sermon as the basis for discussion, with the church providing resources for group leaders toward this end. Then there are some in the middle that take some period of time each year (say, 2 months) where all groups study the same thing built off  and connected to the preaching.
  • Past experience: Is there a past of small groups, or is the church starting from scratch? Either answer affects thoughts on developing a model, timeline and communication with the congregation as to what is happening, why it is important and how to get involved. A church that has never had small groups before has the unenviable task of convincing people it is important to their spiritual growth. On the other side, in churches that has a small group past, there is probably baggage that comes along with it, good or bad. Again, this is not about a right answer, but about honestly articulating what will be involved in making the new small group initiative a success.
  • Transience of population: Is the population pretty stable there or is there a fair amount of population turnover? Mark Dever has articulated that they know that the population of Capital Hill Baptist Church turns over every 3 years. So, at Capital Hill, they need a discipleship strategy that seeks to make the most of that. Instead of bemoaning all the lost people, they intentionally developed a strategy to prepare those people in the time they do have them. This can be a very important question in determining the type of model that might be effective for any local congregation.
  • Leadership development: How is the model that the church embraces raising up leaders? This is a huge one. I just recently spoke with a woman  who, along with her husband, has been leading a small group for a long time. I may be wrong about this, but I heard that Noah originally started this group with his kids when they got off the ark and it has been meeting ever since. Her comment to me: There are people in our group that should be leading groups. One significant hurdle is any system where people get into a group and are stuck there for life. People get comfortable in their group and are content to stay there. That leaves the challenging proposition of always needing to develop new leaders for new groups and having to rely on finding those people amongst those who are not already in a group. And yet, doesn’t it seem that those who are in a group already embrace the philosophy of ministry that says that groups are important?

Well, there are my recommendations on the 10 initial conversations that any church should have if considering a small group strategy for the first time or evaluating the effectiveness of their current system. As I said in the first post, small groups are a means, not an end. The end: To see disciples raised up in the likeness of Christ who are giving their lives away for the gospel. To the extent that small groups are effective toward that end, go for it.

 

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