the shape of leadership

Four Reasons Your Small Groups Aren’t Flourishing

Reviving this important church ministry

Influence Magazine on October 12, 2017

For more than three decades, churches have engaged small groups for the purposes of church growth. They come in all different shapes, sizes and models. If you’re looking to grow a healthy church, small groups are one great place to start.

Small groups are gatherings of believers in one place at one time to create connectedness, discipleship and support. They foster spiritual development and provide a healthy atmosphere for social interaction. They offer encouragement and comfort in difficult times as well as an opportunity to form lifelong friendships.

However, it seems many churches struggle to get a small group ministry off the ground and keep it going. Here are four reasons your small groups may not be flourishing, and some tips on how to get them back on the right track.

1. They Aren’t Accessible

Are your small groups visible? If a visitor asks how to join one, is the process easy or difficult? Make sure people can find a group to their liking simply, whether that means looking through a written brochure, going to an online database, or talking to a group leader in person.

Small groups foster spiritual development and provide a healthy atmosphere for social interaction.

Another reason your small groups may not be accessible is that they meet at times and locations that are inconvenient. Given your church’s footprint in the community, make sure not to bunch up your groups in one area of the city. And having a regular schedule for group sessions without large gaps is crucial to their growth.

2. They Aren’t Trained

Do your leaders know what is expected of them? Are you training them well? Though many pastors focus on making sure each small group leader can lead a successful discussion, that’s really secondary to their main responsibility of fostering an environment for spiritual growth.

Begin by defining for your leaders what should be accomplished in each small group setting. Give them an outline of how each meeting could go. Encourage leaders to get together outside their regular meeting time for outreach, parties or special service projects.

3. They Aren’t Friendly

Do you have open or closed groups? How are visitors received by existing members?

The best way to get new participants into your groups is to get people already in the groups to invite them. You’ll find that a friendly atmosphere is the best advertisement for small groups.

4. They Aren’t Important

Do you as the lead pastor talk about your small groups often? Have you made them part of your vision? If not, don’t expect them to flourish. Your people will respond to what you think is important. So, talk about small groups during your sermons, give special attention to them at the beginning of each semester, and highlight testimonies of life change taking place through them.

Flourishing small groups always help the church grow. Your weekend services are an opportunity for small group members to worship together, serve together, and live out the spiritual growth happening each week in their group. Make your small groups a vital part of your mission, and they will be a dynamic tool for reaching your vision.


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