A few years ago, Di and I visited an Australian megachurch. We wanted to learn more small groups and other key programs in church life.
Megachurches are often incubators of new trends in church life, so we visited one to see what was going on behind the scenes.
One of their small group pastors (they had 5 on staff) told us that 93% of new people leave within a year if they don’t start serving or join a small group.
In medium and large churches small groups are the primary glue that helps people stick to a church. They provide a safe place for friendships to grow and give people that feeling of belonging that is vital in larger churches.
I know you want to prevent your small groups from failing so here’s 7 surefire methods you can use to grow healthy small groups.
7 Surefire Ways to Prevent Failing Small Groups
1. Appoint Assistant Leaders
Assistant leaders play a crucial role in every church’s leadership pipeline.
Not only can a leader share the responsibilities of leading a group, they can take opportunities to develop another leader.
The hands-on nature of an assistant’s role means that they learn quicker than if they were in just a training course.
The raw material of an untrained leader can quickly be turned into an effective leader who revels in their new responsibilities.
2. Appoint Pastoral Care Workers
Some people are excellent at leading meetings but not so good at following up people.
While others are brilliant at caring for people but not leading meetings. An excellent way around this issue is to appoint pastoral care workers in each group.
This has a couple of immediate benefits.
Firstly, it places pastorally gifted people in a role that suits their gifting and personality.
Secondly, it takes pressure off the leader of the group to be the pastoral care worker for the entire group.
Of course, another benefit is that it gets another person locked into a role in the group.
3 Give Everyone a Role or Task
When people step over the line of serving their commitment, and subsequently, attendance increases.
Your small groups will function better if everyone has a role to play in the group.
Besides the obvious roles of leaders, assistant leaders, hosts and pastoral care workers you can create roles for other members of the group.
Ask someone to take care of birthdays so that everyone’s special day is celebrated in a meaningful and fun way.
Inspire a couple of people to coordinate prayer for the members of the group.
They can ensure that prayer requests are recorded and circulated as well as interceding for the group and the members.
Ask another group member to be your communications person, reminding people of group meetings and other events in the group.
4. Dig into the Bible
Small groups are excellent for making disciples. I believe it is impossible to disciple people without the Scriptures. Discussing the scriptures should be a central part of any small group.
You can do this through prepared bible studies or notes from the Sunday service.
Either way, make sure you provide sufficient material for the leader as they may not have enough time to do extensive bible study themselves.
5. Pastors Should Visit the Groups
There are multiple benefits to a church when a pastor visits the small groups.
The small group leaders are encouraged by the attention they receive from the pastor.
The pastor’s visit creates an opportunity for follow up coaching and encouragement after they experience the group in action.
Also, the pastor can see the home environment of the host which can tell you many things about the family.
6. Establish Coaches for The Leaders
Connect group leaders need focused support including training and encouragement.
One way to prove this is by establishing coaches for your small group leaders.
Some small group leaders have a high capacity and can coach another leader while running their own group.
Now not all leaders have this capacity but if you see it in a ladder release them into this opportunity.
One significant benefit of a coach is that they can deliver ‘just-in-time training to a leader. In other words, they are answering the burning questions leaders have as they lead their group.
While generic training is essential, just-in-time training provided by coaches gives essential support at the right time.
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7. Profile Your Groups Twice A Year
Profiling your small groups during church services should be done at least twice a year.
Interview leaders and members of the small group.
Preach about your small groups and help your church understand their central role in the life of your church.
During the profiling of your groups give people an opportunity to sign up for a group or renew their content to their group.