I used to believe that small groups just wouldn’t work in rural and small town environments. I’m beginning to change my mind. They can work; you just need the right people leading them. Good leadership works no matter what context you’re doing ministry in.
I now think the bigger issue for small town churches that want to do groups well is a lack of good small group leadership training. Oh, and by the way, the same is true if you still offer Sunday School classes. You’re most successful classes are going to be led by your best leaders.
So, how can we help our leaders improve? Glad you asked. Here is what I would tell them.
- Build Relationships. – The #1 reason small groups struggle or fail to get started in my church is because the leader did not do a good job of building relationships. I can almost guarantee it’s the same in your church. People think you’re going to build relationships when you get in the group. They don’t realize you have to be building relationships long before the group is ever going to begin. Or they think, this is an exciting topic, so people will want to sign up for it. Topic is important, but it pales in comparison to the relationships you have with people. If you want people to come to your group, you better be building relationships with them months in advance.
- Pick an Interesting Topic. – If you’re great relationally, you can pick almost any topic and people will show up. For the rest of us, topic matters. Pick something that you think the people you’re going to invite will want to be a part of. If you’re inviting primarily married couples, then topics like marriage, parenting, and finances make sense. If you’re inviting young adults, you may want to talk about sex and dating. If you’re inviting people new to faith, you may want to go with how to grow your faith or how to read your Bible. Target your topic to your audience.
- Personally Invite. – Don’t allow a bulletin or card or social media post to be your invitation. Those are great tools to use, but they are not meant to take the place of a personal invite. Invitations should be face to face, and invite way more people than you want to show up. If your house has room for 10 adults, make sure you invite double that many. Not everyone is going to show up, and it’s better to have too many than not enough.
- Ask Good Questions. Your main goal as a small group leader is to help create healthy conversations. This means talking less and listening more. Think of the conversation as a campfire, you want to talk just enough to stoke the fire and keep it going. You also want to be as open and honest as possible, knowing that sharing your struggles will open the door for them to share their own.
- Follow Up During the Week – Building relationships shouldn’t just happen on Sundays or even group nights. You should continue to try to connect with your group throughout the week. Comment on their Facebook post. Like their Instagram pic. Send them a group text letting them know you’re praying for them. You don’t want to go overboard with this, but you do want to let them know you genuinely care about them and what’s going on in their lives.
What would you add to this list? What have you seen work at your church? Leave a comment and let us know. Also, while you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get weekly tips on church growth, leadership and more delivered straight to your inbox.