The First Step to Effective Small Groups

Small groups are an excellent way to connect people who attend your church. While this statement is probably nothing new in concept, you’re not alone if you struggle with small groups at your church. There’s a number of reasons why most local churches don’t have a thriving small group ministry, and the first one is just that: it’s a ministry.

There are two approaches a church could take with small groups. The most common one is that they become a church WITH small groups. In this scenario, small groups are just one more ministry within the church. They compete with men’s and women’s ministries, recovery programs, sports ministries, Sunday night and mid-week services, just to name a few.

You want to know why you don’t have the participation you’d like in small groups?

The people are exhausted.

Think about it from your guests’ perspective.

In a church with small groups, do you realize how many commitments you’re asking them to make? You have services Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night…and Sunday School! Then you have the men’s prayer breakfast, and the women’s bible study. And whatever other ministries you’re offering. And then you’re going to add small groups on top of that. Oh yeah, you want them to serve in the church too. And heaven forbid these poor souls have any children that want to participate –at church or at school. Is it any wonder they’re not showing up to all of it?

In reality, people are exhausted from the demands of daily living even before they enter your doors. And yet the church just creates more expectations.

Jesus came to bring rest to the weary, not to create more obligations.

Now, you might think that you’re simply trying to give everyone options. You want to meet all needs. The challenge there is two-fold, first it is this simple fact:

What Are You Doing With Your Guests?

I still remember, when I was about ten years old, we moved to a new town and had to start “church-shopping.” The only thing I remember from that experience were the little red, rose fabric stickers that you’d get if you were a visitor. I thought those were so cool!

Times have changed though (or maybe they haven’t and we’re becoming more aware), but today, when you’re welcoming new guests, I hope you’re intentionally NOT doing anything that makes them stand out. New people don’t want to be recognized. They don’t want to have attention drawn to them. Anything that you do that singles guests out is going to make them feel less comfortable and more awkward.

It’s not fair, I know. You have the best intentions in welcoming those new guests.

But there’s a more effective way to do it. Rather than calling attention to, or requiring your guests to do unusual acts (such as trade a new visitor card for a free gift from the old ladies at the welcome center…hello, awkward!)…

Instead devote your efforts to intentionally following up with those guests.

How are you doing that, today?

The Secret to Getting Lots of Excited Volunteers

It seems to be a common problem in the local church. There’s never enough volunteers. Getting new volunteers feels like pulling teeth. And sometimes, the ones that are serving, though faithful, aren’t all that excited to be there. Do they seem to feel like it’s more of an obligation to serve, than an honor and a privilege?

It doesn’t have to be that way. We got to be part of a church that exploded with growth, and we saw firsthand the abundance of volunteers. At one point, this church had a few thousand in attendance and less than a half-dozen on staff.

What’s the secret?

It’s the vision.

If your people aren’t excited about and jumping at the opportunity to serve, it’s because they don’t know where you’re going. You haven’t cast a vision that is so compelling that people can’t help but want to be a part of it.

People secretly want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. They want their lives to matter.

Where there is no vision, the people perish.

-Proverbs 29:18

But too often, the church is…just…”church.” It’s more of a place to go than a movement to be a part of.  If you were to serve, it’s because you “should.”

So What’s Your Vision?

Why does your church exist? What are you hoping to accomplish?

I Hear Voices

Yes, I hear voices. Really. Different voices…from the same person! Just last Sunday the guy leading music wrapped up the final song and said he was going to give the benediction.

(What does that mean, anyway? I guarantee you the new people don’t know what a “benediction” is…but that’s a topic for another post.)

So anyway he goes on to say some really nice things in a very soft, rather effeminate voice. And then he says, in what sounded like a normal voice, “Okay see you later. Have a great weekend!”


If You’re Late, Don’t Bother

Have you ever stopped to think about what a Sunday morning is like for someone who’s planning to come to church for the first time? Well, hang on. Let’s be real. You know how difficult Sunday mornings can be for you? You’re out of routine. Even though there’s more time than your normal workday mornings, it disappears more quickly. The kids are grumpy, your wife has nothing to wear, and you’re going to miss the football game.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about then you either don’t have kids, forgot what it was like when yours were little (and by little, that’d be anything less than grown up), or you’re simply not normal. Congratulations.

For the rest of us, trying to get to church on a Sunday morning is not a walk in the park. And getting there on time is even harder.

Can you then imagine what it’s like for someone who has finally worked up the courage to visit church, perhaps for the first time?

Have you thought about how hard the devil is working to keep that person from showing up on your church doorstep?

The Invisible Kid

It was our sixth time visiting the church, but the first time she’d gone to children’s church without first having gone to Sunday School. You see, when they go to Sunday School during first service, the kids are escorted to children’s church as a class and they all sit down together, safe, sound and secure. Sweet, isn’t it? Yes, unless you don’t go to Sunday School.

Why churches can think far enough to put greeters in place for the adult service, but can’t connect the dots to do the same for the kids’ program, is beyond me.

So this Sunday not only did she not go to Sunday School first, we were late. Because, yeah…that happens.

I walked her through the doors and we waited quietly in the back as the children’s pastor was praying. When he was finished, I gave her a quick side-hug and she walked in and found a seat in the back row, by herself.

I turned and headed out for the adult service. Nobody said hello. Not to her, not to me. There was no place to check her in. To let somebody know that she was there.

Did I mention that she’s only seven?

Who’s That Dude?

We settled into our seats after the first round of singing and an energetic young blonde man hopped up on the stage. He jumped right into what he had to say with a friendly, engaging manner. But we were lost. I leaned over to Ken and whispered, “Who’s that guy?”

Ken didn’t know either. And after a few minutes of listening intently, we determined that it must be the youth pastor.

You want to know what happens when you assume you’re talking to a crowd of friends? Of people who’ve been going to your church for a while?

(You know what they say about “assume,” right? Okay we won’t get there.)

You alienate everyone else. And that includes your first-time visitors. Those new guests that had the courage to venture out and visit your church. But you didn’t even bother to introduce yourself.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the senior pastor, the youth pastor, or the maintenance manager.

If you’re talking to the crowd, say hello.

“Hi I’m Bob, I’m one of the pastors here.”

“Hi I’m Joe, I help with the maintenance around here. For today’s announcements…”

“Hey I’m Chris. Glad you’re here! Let’s stand and sing together.”

And yes. You do this every week. Think it feels weird introducing yourself each Sunday (especially if you’re the lead pastor and you’re the one teaching every Sunday?) Get over it. Better that you feel a little awkward than that you make it awkward for those new guests in your audience that God finally entrusted you with.

I mean really. You wouldn’t neglect to introduce yourself to a new guest to your home. Why would it be any different in your church?


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