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Last week I posted my fave 5 small group resources. Here is a follow-up of my top 5 insights about leading small groups or a “small group ministry.” Let me start by saying that there is no way to grow a faithful small groups ministry in a hurry. Choosing a model and sticking with it will produce more fruit than constantly changing. This must also be balanced with the general ministry principle of embracing change as a way of life. Here are my five. Feel free to add (!) or disagree.

  1. Small groups are not great places for Bible study; in any small group the emphasis should be on application rather than gaining new information. I highly recommend the “flow questions” model of writing the small group discussion. It works.
  2. Groups must engage in the following activities together: eat, pray, serve, play. Of course groups will also study, which is important, but the groups must be multi-dimensional. (Don’t underestimate eating together!)
  3. Non-affinity (or demographic) based groups are more difficult but better in every way. To me, it’s the only way for the church to really be the church and not a consumer-driven social club (Gal 3.28, etc). But I also hate HUP (homogeneous unit principle) as a ministry strategy (as a sociological principle it’s pretty hard to deny).
  4. People open up more in gender-specific sub-groups, but only if you don’t overdo it. Once again, I only recommend gender specific group times in the context of mixed groups. Splitting up once per “series” seems to work well.
  5. Starting new groups is much easier than multiplying existing ones. Rather than asking an existing group to become two groups, ask if anyone in the existing group wants to start a new group made up mostly of people who aren’t yet in a group. (And no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to get people to consistently say that groups “multiply” rather than “split”.)

Once again, keep in mind that I’m working primarily with adults in an American suburban context, and our valley is somewhat unique in the way it is marked off geographically. Of course things will look different in a different setting. I’d love to hear any responses, and I’d especially love to hear what you think our churches will look like when we move beyond small groups in general.

What’s next?