Here we go. A few more thoughts about what makes small groups work best from a guy who has had more than his fair share of ‘small groups gone bad!’
Small Groups Work Best When They Are Given Some Freedom
There’s really no need to try to control things too much. In very short order, your small group leaders will have a better understanding of the pace of their group than you do. By ‘pace’ I simply mean the tempo, feel, flow or culture of their group. Each group has a unique pace. Some groups are made up of spiritually mature students who want to engage in lengthy, deep Bible studies while others simply want to hang out and talk. Some groups are made up of students who are super busy with sports, academic pursuit and other extra-curricular activities while others are made up of students for whom small group is the focal point of the week. Allow each group the freedom to schedule and progress at a ‘pace’ that feels best for them.
Small Groups Work Best When They Aren’t Given Too Much Freedom
Of course, if you give your leaders an inch, many of them will take a foot! While freedom is a good thing, too much of it can do more harm than good. Let them set the pace, but only after sharing their strategy with you. Let them chose some of their own curriculum, but make sure you approve it. One of the biggest challenges with small groups is maintaining a certain level of quality control. Striking the right balance of freedom you give to your leaders makes a huge difference.
Small Groups Work Best When There Is An ‘Off Season’
In our ministry setting, we take a break for the entire Summer. This gives leaders a chance to rest and allows us to recruit and train new leaders for the upcoming school year. We’ve discovered that the biggest benefit to an off season is that it builds anticipation and excitement for the next year. I believe we keep our volunteers around longer than most ministries because we allow some down time. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.
Small Groups Work Best When They Are Partnered With Something Big
I love small groups and truly believe they are the back bone of our ministry at Saddleback. However, part of the reason our small groups are so effective is because they are partnered with a weekly ‘large group’ gathering. Bringing everybody together on a regular basis in a bigger setting is your best advertisement for small groups. Large group gatherings are a great place for seekers and casual attendees to get their feet wet and set the stage for your small groups.