How Technology Can Ease Your Small Group Ministry’s Growing Pains

As a church grows bigger, it must also grow smaller. This is a common rule of thumb shared among church leaders. People actively involved in small groups ministry are more likely to be financially generous, willing to volunteer, and generally more consistent in participation than those who aren’t actively participating in a small group.

The value of small groups is uncontested in most ministry circles. In fact, some leaders suggest the health of a church hinges upon the health of its small groups ministry. Whatever role small groups play, it is certainly one which affects many other dimensions of local church ministry.

So how can church leaders promote the growth, health and vitality of their small groups to ensure that they, too, can grow bigger by growing smaller? Here are five ways to equip your small groups to do just that.

Evaluate your current small group strategy beyond the numbers.

Before you start planning for how you’re going to launch a whole new set of groups this fall, make sure you take the time to evaluate the health of your current strategy. Here are three key areas that will help you determine exactly how healthy your small group ministry is beyond looking at the overall numbers.

Make sure the back door of your small group ministry is shut before you start.
You shouldn’t launch new small groups without a plan in place to make sure the people who join are going to stick. Whatever strategies your church uses to encourage people to join a small group, here are three ways technology can secure the back door of your groups before you launch this fall.

Make small groups more than ‘a place to connect.’

It’s not easy to keep tabs on how each small group in the church is doing. However, this is precisely where technology can help. Rather than simply being a place for people to connect, your small groups can actually be a catalyst for growth and genuine disciple-making. Here are four proven ways technology can support you in this goal.

Prove that you value faces more than numbers.

Most small group leaders have a goal for the number of new small group members they want to reach. However, if you’re not careful, it can seem as if you value the numbers more than the actual lives that will be changed through your small group ministry. Technology can help you track who actually shows up every week so that everyone is clear that the real goal is life change, not a number.

Find new small group leaders by mining your church management software.

Your church management software can become a vital tool for identifying new small group leaders in your church. Not only can it help you identify potential leaders based on their passions and spiritual gifts, it can also help you identify potential leaders based on personal growth, not just participation.

And we know – we talk a lot about how church management systems like Church Community Builder can help churches close the back door. Because while closing the back door of your church is essential for getting to know people and making sure they’re connected, there are other doors your church needs to close – the back door of the ‘houses’ that host a small group ministry each week.

And technology can have a huge impact on closing that back door. Because whatever strategies your church uses to engage small group members on a weekly basis, here are three ways technology can secure the back door of your church, even when the storms of life roll by:

Technology ensures that your small group strategy is working.

Rather than simply being a place for people to connect, your small groups can actually be a catalyst for growth and genuine disciple-making. Here are four proven ways technology can support you in this goal and close the back door that people tend to walk out when they’re not experiencing life change within their small group.

Technology keeps you from missing people who walk out the back door.

Each church member is a valuable asset in that small group. But the primary reason people leave a small group is because they don’t feel valued. Is your church helping them realize their value? If you want to prevent people from walking out the back door because they don’t feel valued, here is the first thing you should do.

Technology helps you prevent small groups from bursting at the seams.

Most churches have a target number of people for each small group. Without utilizing technology, how can your church record how many members a group has and project when it’s time to start a new group? Sometimes closing the back door of your small group ministry means opening new homes and new doors. It’s part of the paradox that every healthy church understands. Technology helps you know when to open those doors.

As one could reasonably expect, there will, of course, be a period of transition that takes place after implementing a church management software, though the length of the transition period will be driven by two primary factors: how established and documented church systems and processes were surrounding small groups ministry and ongoing training for new and existing small groups leaders.

When church leaders can leverage technology to grow and strengthen their small groups ministry, the concurrently foster the ability of their church to grow, too. Your church management software’s small groups management functionality should not only serve you as you serve your church by supporting your small groups ministry, but it should also serve as a viable and effective means of building lasting community among your members and regular attendees for the greater good of the Kingdom for years to come.


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Church Community Builder

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

6 Moments to Engage Families in Small Groups

It happened again.

You just made the same small group announcement.
Sure, it happened on a different Sunday, during a different series. However, you just made that same hope-full announcement and received that same life-less response.
All across today’s church, leaders are saying more, yet somehow congregations are hearing less.

Every prop and trick lay used, relegated to a back-of-the-stage pile of ineffective effort. The funny videos made lots of people laugh, but no one dropped their carefully curated “perfect life” façade to live in heart-level relationships. The moving testimony video made plenty of people cry, but no one took that first, fear-fueled step into schedule-wrecking community.

Our best, most creative emphasis and announcement efforts bounce harmlessly off the Teflon-strong force field of the family calendar. For most in today’s church, a crisis-level lack of family engagement in groups boils down to this: the felt-need of life in community has yet to surpass the real-pain of an over scheduled life.

All of the church-speak generic “life together” reasons for “living in community”through “life groups” ring hollow as cul-de-sac gatherings, travel team parent bonding, and friends (with boating benefits) deftly imitate true and Gospel-centered relational connection.

After all, who needs yet another night away with yet another group of people?

We make the announcements but fail to articulate the value of community, especially with other people experiencing life-change. We promote the seasonal sign-ups, but neglect the most natural entry-points during life-stages.

Consider the many, fear-inducing moments of change and seasons of adjustment that every family experiences. Most are perfect opportunities to leverage the wisdom and comfort of community as a real and natural need to be a part of a group.

Here are six life-stage opportunities to expand engagement in small group life:

Newlywed / Engaged Couples. The first friends as a couple are typically life-long. Leverage premarital counseling and intensive wedding preparation seasons to focus young lovers on building depth of community into their marriage, not simply crafting Pinterest-worthy moments into a ceremony.

Expecting Parents. Parents-to-be, especially when it is their first child, are usually scared to death and more open to asking questions and being influenced by parents who have “been there, done that.” Working together, the preschool minister and groups leader have a natural opportunity to encourage and resource parents into group life.

Baby Dedication. More than preparing for a Sunday moment, this is a natural time to gather families in a small-group environment as a prerequisite to participation. Gather new parents to discuss a book or parenting bible study for 4-6 weeks before the Sunday morning ceremony. Church leaders can reinforce gathering in a home as more important than standing on a stage, and see those groups continue for years.

Kindergarten / Grade School. The tear-filled eyes of parents driving away from the campus after dropping their “couldn’t possibly be this old already” child at school are indications of shared emotions. They are also likely indications of an openness to prioritize time with other parents wiping their eyes as well. Giving parents a place to do more than cope or commiserate, groups in this life stage encourage connection and iron sharpening. Start the conversation by introducing parents to the children’s ministry while at the same time introducing them to other parents just as scared and hopeful as they are.

Middle / High School. Puberty, dating and social media… enough said. Parents with children entering middle school or high school need help, and quickly. As your next group of youth age-up into the student ministry, do more than just meet with parents and talk at them. Make it a goal to get those parents talking to each other and finding common ground together. Convene a round table on important topics, and spin off discussion groups that can grow into meaningful small groups or bible study classes.

College / Empty Nest. The last 18+ years have been spent focused on successfully getting their children out of the nest, and prayerfully staying out. Now these suddenly purposeless parents struggle to reconnect and establish the new normal once their baby birds finally fly off. Graduation Sundays offer a great chance to celebrate each student, but also a great connection with the parents wondering “what’s next.” What if leaders offered one or two strategic gatherings over the summer to prepare parents for this new normal, all the while pointing to a Fall season of group life?

Families in your church are physically, emotionally, and spiritually right where you have led them to be… in groups and not.

Now is the time to stop thinking about small groups in ways that work on a ministry calendar or for a pastoral preference.

Now is the time to start engaging families during the seasons and moments in life that actually matter to them.

Now is the time to truly engage people in meaningful Gospel-centered community, not just make that same small group announcement.


Learn more about engaging people in a Gospel-centered community: Connect with an Auxano Navigator.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

God’s Vision Frame

If you’re a friend of Auxano, you are likely well versed in the Church Unique Vision Frame. Its five components define every church’s DNA and create a platform for all vision casting.

  1. Mission – a clear and concise statement that describes what the church is ultimately supposed to be doing
  2. Values – shared convictions that guide the actions and reveal the strengths of the church
  3. Strategy – the process or picture that demonstrates how the church will accomplish its mission at the broadest level
  4. Measures – a set of attributes in an individual’s life that reflect accomplishment of the church’s mandate.
  5. Vision Proper – the living language that anticipates and illustrates God’s better intermediate future for the church

This same tool that gives churches clarity for their mission is also helpful for understanding God’s unfolding plan of redemption for His created world. But whereas a church’s Vision Frame uses different words and phrases to possess and communicate clarity for a given period of time, God’s Vision Frame has only one phrase for each component for all of time: the Cross. God’s mission is the Cross. God’s value is the Cross. His strategy is the Cross. The Cross defines the attributes or qualities of His followers, and nothing illustrates the future God has for His people better than the Cross.

From the beginning, Scripture tells the story of the Cross. The tree of life, the serpent’s fatal wound, and the shedding of blood to provide covering for Adam and Eve are among the earliest references (Genesis 1-3). Abraham’s ceremonial covenant (Genesis 15), the provision of a substitute for Isaac (Genesis 22), the Passover in Egypt (Exodus 12), the bronze serpent with Moses (Numbers 21) and many other narratives shed even more light on the coming Cross of Christ, to say nothing of prophecies like that of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant (i.e., Isaiah 53).

Given the centrality of the Cross in the Old Testament, we are not surprised to see that same focus throughout the New Testament. Though the Gospel writers differ in their approach, the core of their message is the same: “that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days” (Mark 8:31, HCSB). Combined, the gospel writers record nearly 20 allusions or direct statements about the Cross.

Because the Cross is central to the gospel, the stories that tell of its spread, along with the letters and sermons that make up the bulk of the New Testament, all keep the Cross central. The very thing that one would think would diminish Jesus’ credibility (a violent, grotesque, and shameful public execution) was the very thing Peter, Stephen, Paul, and many others preached and wrote about prolifically, either as evangelists to the lost or as encouragers to the struggling faithful.

  • Throughout the narrative of Scripture, we see God’s clear mission: the Cross.
  • Throughout the narrative of Scripture, we see a conviction toward one thing: the Cross.
  • Throughout the narrative of Scripture, we see all things revolving around one thing: the Cross.
  • Throughout the narrative of Scripture, all of our behaviors and qualities are measured against one thing: the Cross.
  • Throughout the narrative of Scripture, we see that God has nothing better for us than giving us Himself through one thing: the Cross.

So the Church Unique Vision Frame is not only a powerful way of understanding your church’s mission, but also a helpful tool for understanding God’s unfolding plan of redemption for His created world. This is because any biblical church’s Vision Frame is always operating under the premise of God’s Vision Frame. Whatever our mission, values, strategy, measures, and vision proper may be, they will always be subservient to the Cross.

It is one thing to know this, yet it is another to effectively communicate it to the church you serve. To that end, here are three simple but effective ways to ensure the church you serve is operating according to its Vision Frame within the greater context of God’s Vision Frame.

  1. Preach the language. Pulpits, lecterns, music stands, and high-top tables will always rank highly among the most effective means of communication, but all too rarely do preachers and teachers use God’s Vision and the church’s Vision Frame to frame their messages. Embrace that weekly teaching time to show how your unique vision relates to God’s sole mission.
  2. Live the language. The apostle Paul unequivocally states that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). Too often we assume that mind renewal occurs in a classroom, when the reality is that much of our transformation takes place as we experience and share what we are learning. Use the evangelistic and missional experiences you and your people have as a means of connecting them to your Vision Frame and God’s Vision Frame.
  3. Study the language. An often overlooked yet powerful opportunity for reinforcing the church’s and God’s Vision Frame into the congregation is through a regular small group gathering for fellowship and Bible study. The problem is that these groups are often dependent upon volunteer leaders, people who often do not know the Vision Frames to the same degree as the church staff. That’s why we recommend smallgroup.com, a custom Bible study tool that gives you and your group leaders access to a vast and growing library of studies you can customize for your group. With smallgroup.com, you can incorporate the language of your Vision Frame and God’s Vision Frame into the fabric of every study your groups complete. Group leaders can be quickly and easily equipped with a study that truly speaks the language of your church and more deeply imbeds your core values into its people.

The Church Unique Vision Frame is a powerful way of understanding your church’s mission and a helpful tool for understanding God’s unfolding plan of redemption for His created world.

How will you go about infusing this truth into the people you serve?

> Learn more about smallgroup.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob Tims

Rob is a Discipleship Strategist at LifeWay and the Team Lead for smallgroup.com.

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COMMENTS

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VRcurator — 09/01/15 6:29 am

Thanks Andy - we've repaired the link.

Rev. Andy Rambo — 08/31/15 11:55 am

FYI .. Your links to smallgroup.com lead to 404 Error on their page. Thought you'd want to know. Happy Monday!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.