Did you know that the company Walgreens invented the chocolate malt? According to Wikipedia, “in 1922, Walgreens’ employee Ivar “Pop” Coulson made a milkshake by adding two scoops of vanilla ice cream to the standard malted milk drink recipe (milk, chocolate syrup, and malt powder).” Yet if you have a late-night craving for one today, you’re not going to head to Walgreens.
Or did you know that Timex sold the first home computer at a cost of under $100 in…1982? They quickly made the decision to stick to their core business of making quality watches.
What both of these successful companies eventually decided was that just because we can doesn’t mean we should. As church leaders, we can offer a thousand different options to our congregation, but it doesn’t mean we should. That even applies to small groups. A lot of churches look to groups to solve a discipleship plan void, but they don’t take the time to think through the implications of making them work.
Here are three reasons to think about possibly eliminating your small groups.
1. They’re just another program.
Your church members need a clear spiritual pathway, not another program. Adding programs to the schedule is easy. The hard work comes when you start eliminating unnecessary programs to clear the path for life-changing environments. If small groups are on a long list of options for people to join, they will lose every time. Take some time to think through everything that you offer outside of Sunday morning worship. If small groups are not a vital next step for people, then you might consider taking them out.
2. The senior leader is not behind them.
The senior church leader has to be completely on board with your small groups system. Most pastors know that their church should offer intentional paths to discipleship, but they struggle with knowing how to implement a healthy groups system. The lead pastor has to be the head cheerleader for developing disciples within the framework of community. If your senior leader is not willing to be a part of a small group, only a small percentage of your congregation will be willing to give it a shot.
3. They’re not in the budget.
Any ministry or program worth having is worth paying for. We are willing to devote a good amount of the budget to the initial spiritual step—the Sunday service—but not always to the discipleship plan that should follow. As much as we would love for groups to happen organically, it is going to take money to help them launch and succeed. Biblically solid curriculum is not a luxury for groups; it’s a necessity. Your group leaders need guidance in order for the right discussions to take place during meetings. They also need to be taken care of with occasional coffees and swag. If you’re not ready to make small groups an essential part of the church’s budget, then you might reconsider their existence.
Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over 22 years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC, for 15 years. He also manages SmallGroup.com for Lifeway Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson. You can follow his blog at chrissurratt.com or follow him on Twitter @chrissurratt.