If there is any “good” to come out of our current COVID-19 crisis, it’s that churches have been forced to reexamine the health of their current programs and ministries. What was working to help create disciples nine months ago may no longer be as effective.
It has also helped shine a spotlight on ministries that have been merely existing for some time—even before this pandemic—but are not producing fruit like they once were.
For many churches, small groups are designed to be the spiritual and relational lifeblood for the congregation. Groups are the environment where the message of the gospel is lived out through the practice of the “one anothers.”
If groups truly are that important to the current and future state of the church, we should do everything we can now to ensure they’re healthy and resourced for success for the future. Here are four ways to help make that happen.
1. Budget for current and future success.
Small groups and discipleship aren’t normally at the top of the budget needs for churches. Groups are a somewhat low-maintenance and self-sustaining ministry line item.
In order for groups to function effectively in this new reality, there will have to be more invested financial resources. The means more investment in the depth and quality of what’s being studied, more in staffing for discipleship, and more in helping group leaders and hosts provide a safe and welcoming environment.
2. Refresh your curriculum for groups.
Whether your small groups are meeting in-person or online, it is time for a curriculum refresh. If your only option for curriculum is printed materials, it will be more difficult for online groups to utilize these fully. Lifeway now provides all of it’s ongoing and short-term studies in digital formats.
Providing studies based on the weekend message is also a great option for new groups and those only meeting online. Smallgroup.com is a tool that makes the process of writing your own studies faster and easier.
3. Make groups a priority everywhere.
The option to join a group can no longer be three clicks away on the website, or a once or twice a year emphasis from the pulpit. The church website was once considered the new lobby for the church, but it’s now the lobby, bulletin, and sometimes the stage.
Getting people assimilated into groups has to be easy and obvious from the first page of your website. Online Zoom groups have made this easier than ever, but in-person groups will need to be just as easy.
4. Model from the top.
Sheep will follow where the shepherd leads. Research shows that churches with leadership that is highly invested in groups have more people in the congregation actively attending groups.
If the lead communicators are actively involved in groups and frequently share stories from those group experiences, people will understand groups are a priority. If groups are just another option listed on the website, they’re easily passed over.
This next season of ministry will require much from our small groups and leaders. Let’s do everything we can to make sure they’re as healthy as they can be!
CHRIS SURRATT (@ChrisSurratt) is the discipleship and small groups specialist for Lifeway Christian Resources, a ministry consultant and coach with more than 20 years of experience, and the author of Leading Small Groups: How to Gather, Launch, Lead, and Multiply Your Small Group.