I got new insight into that last week when I went to the Group 100 conference hosted by LifeWay at their Nashville offices. It featured a super line up of veteran small group experts including Bill Willits (of North Point Church), Bill Donahue (formerly with Willow Creek), Steve Gladen (Saddleback), Rick Howerton (LifeWay) and researchers Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger.
Three things stood out from me from all that they said. Here’s what you need to “get” to excel in directing your groups ministry.
- Get clarity. What is the purpose of small groups in your church? How do they fit into your overall strategy? How do your groups accelerate discipleship and move people into their God-given mission? If the purpose of groups is not crystal clear in your mind and the minds of your team, it will definitely not be clear in the minds of your leaders and members. Do the hard, prayerful work of getting clarity on the purpose of groups in your church’s mission and strategy.
- Get alignment. Groups thrive in a church where there is alignment. Alignment begins with you! What is the vision of the senior pastor? How do groups fit into what God is saying to your senior leader? Realize that other ministries and other staff are teammates not competitors. The weekend service is your friend, not your enemy! It is the primary place for you to find the people and leaders to fuel the growth of your groups. Getting alignment between your group ministry and the overall vision of your church takes a lot of time. It requires prayer, communication, cooperation, and patience. Steve Gladen said that they’ve been working on alignment for 17 years at Saddleback.
- Get great catch phrases. Articulate and share mottos that capture and express the importance of groups in your church. Maybe like North Point you say “Circles are better than rows” because you are passionate about moving people who are just listening to Sunday messages into genuine community. Maybe at your church you want to emphasize that “God does big things in small groups.” Perhaps you want people to realize that “Only connected to one another can we achieve our destiny.” Give your team and senior leaders terminology to highlight and emphasize the value of groups.
If you get clarity on the purpose of your groups, get alignment between your groups and your church’s overall strategy, and get one or two key phrases to express the power and vision of groups, you are well on your way. Work hard at getting these three things and everything else will be so much easier.
If you want to download all the insights from this great conference, you can get my 58-page report on it by clicking here: Group 100 Conference Report.