“Circles are better than rows.”
Our church has been one of hundreds who’ve adopted this phrase over the last decade as somewhat of a rally cry for authentic community. For those on staff who lead the next generation, this means that we are going to prioritize relationships when it comes to how we want to organize and structure our ministry. From our babies all the way to our high schoolers, we desire for every child in our ministries to be known by name and given a place to belong. And we believe the best way to achieve this is to lead small.
Why develop a small group culture? Because though God’s plan has not changed, church relationships have.
Leading small is a beautiful reflection of the Gospel. In creating a Lead Small Culture, Reggie Joiner reminds us that the narrative of the Bible is anchored in the fact that God became a man so he could prove how much he loves us. He showed up as a person to demonstrate how much we matter. To prove to us that we’re known by Him and convince us that we belong in His family.
This has always been God’s plan and that won’t change. What has to change are discipleship strategies that set the church up to fail.
Every living person has a limited capacity. Each day, there is only so much we can think about, so much we can do, so many relationships we can invest in. As churches grow and the needs of families deepen, we as pastors realize we have restricted relational influence. So what if we invited small group leaders to pastor alongside us as we establish, guide, develop and challenge the faith of the next generation together? Each week small group leaders have the very same opportunity to show up as Jesus did in the incarnation. To be present for a group of kids or students who need to be reminded, perhaps some for the first time, that they matter.
The most valuable resources to help people see God are the people in your church who know God. – Reggie Joiner
If we believe in the importance of prioritizing relationship, then we have to be willing to behave in a way that gives relationships what they need to thrive: a solid structure, solid leaders and a solid experience.
You might start by gathering your ministry team and asking the following questions (taken from the Creating A Lead Small Culture Study Guide by Weekly):
- Is there a designated leader and team to oversee small group strategy?
- What tweaks can be made to existing ministry programs so they are steps to getting kids into groups?
- Does your seasonal and weekly calendar compliment or complicate what happens in church culture and at home?
- What’s the percentage of your leaders that have shifted to a weekly responsibility?
- How often are your leaders being thanked, encouraged and trained?
- Do you have a clear strategy for how you invite and apprentice new leaders in your ministry?
- Do your resources and curriculum support leaders with what they need each week?
- How is your physical space designed and managed to help small groups win?
- Does everyone understand how to evaluate small group relationships and the group experience?
Peter Drucker says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
In other words, our team values may be in our heads and in our hearts, but . . .
if they are not transferred to our hands and become habits . . .
if our behaviors don’t match our beliefs . . .
if we’re not open to the idea of acting our way into a new way of thinking . . .
THEN our strategy leads to a dead end.
The key to creating a culture of small groups is not that you only believe in the impact small group leaders can make in the life of a child, but to behave like you do. Remember that though our world is ever-changing, God’s plan never does…and that’s good news! As ministry leaders, let’s be courageous in infusing the message of authentic community into our structures, leadership and experiences until every child is known and given a place to belong.