There’s no doubt that one of the most toxic small group ministry moves is changing small group systems, models or strategies too frequently or flippantly. It is important to make a three year commitment and pursue it with everything you’ve got when you do decide to change. Still, there is a right time to change strategies.
Here are 5 clues that point to a change in small group strategy:
- Your current number of groups isn’t growing. Small group strategies aren’t created equally. Some strategies struggle to do more than tread water, recruiting a new leader only when an existing leader takes a break. When your current number of groups is not growing it is often a result of prioritizing the needs of existing groups over starting new groups. Shifting priorities is a strategic change that will lead to growth. It will also require training your group leaders to fish for themselves.
- Leader identification and development isn’t keeping pace with congregation and crowd growth. If your congregation and/or crowd is growing faster than you can identify and develop new leaders…it is definitely time to take a look at a strategy whose design will give you the results you need. Some leader development strategies (for example, apprenticing) work well in slow growth scenarios but not in faster growing churches or churches that need to launch new groups rapidly to absorb large numbers of unconnected people.
- Percentage connected is flatlined. Unless you are evaluating percentage connected on a regular basis (at least annually), this can be a difficult clue to spot. It occurs when your total number of adults connected only keeps pace with adult attendance in worship.
- Your model is not making disciples. Please don’t miss this clue. Most small group ministries exist to connect people and make disciples. When you discover that your model really only connects people and provides for their fellowship needs, it’s time for a strategy change. Remember, your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing. If you want or need different results, you must change the design.
- Your current model only appeals to the core and committed. Unless you have keen eyes to see and ears to hear, it can be hard to spot this clue. The needs and interests of the people in your congregation and crowd are different than those who are already connected (AKA, the usual suspects). For example, many in the core and committed may be deeply interested in studying books of the Bible, those in the crowd and outer edges of the congregation will only be attracted to studies that appeal directly to their interests and needs (i.e., relationships, family, purpose, etc.).
What do you think?