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Why Your Small Group Ministry Is Struggling (and What You Can Do About It)

If your church’s small group ministry is struggling, I think I know why. Based on 8 years as a full-time small group consultant, 12 years as a small group pastor, and statistical research involving the small group ministries over 200 churches, I see three key mistakes that cripple small group system growth. Do any of these apply to your church?

Problem #1: Not offering small group leader training often enough. The most common small group ministry mistake is not offering leader training frequently enough. Fortunately, this is a fairly easy problem to fix. Too many churches offer small group leader training only once or twice a year. Even in a small church, you should offer it at least three times a year. When you offer small group leader training, new leaders get trained and new groups can launch. (Blatant plug: ChurchSmart offers my excellent small group leader training DVDs for just $50.)

Problem #2: Not offering great small group leader team meetings. This problem takes two forms. First, some churches do not offer regular small group leader team meetings. Second, some churches offer them, but they are done wrong and few leaders come. You need to do great leader meetings at least quarterly. We do six regular team meetings a year and in addition we do a leader appreciation banquet, a training rally, and leader Christmas parties. These meetings have high appeal and impact and are consistently attended by more than two-thirds of our leaders. I’ll do one of my next blog entries on how to do these right because it’s more than I can write about here. For now, realize that the key is focusing not on training, but on encouraging, envisioning and providing opportunities for your leaders to share with one another and pray for each other. Training is not the felt need of your leaders, and if that becomes your primary focus, most of them will quit coming.

Problem #3: Not offering effective leadership coaching. I hate to tell you this, but the most important part of getting long-term small group ministry growth is also the hardest. The most important thing to offer your small group leaders is great small group leader coaching. Some churches don’t have small group coaches, and others have them, but their coaches don’t understand or do their job.

It took our church a couple of years to take our coaching system from “poor” (34 on the SGBI Assessment) to “okay” (50) to “good” (60). Getting it humming involves thoughtful recruiting, coaching training, and the integration of coaching time into your small group leadership team meetings.

Is your small group ministry facing any of these three problems? What is the next step for you to start fixing that problem?

What other thoughts or questions do you have on what hinders small group ministry growth?

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