The second of our 10 Questions for Small Group Planning asks, “What will our groups do?”
Okay, slow down. This question doesn’t dive into the types of groups or the activity schedules for group meetings. We’re not quite ready for those questions yet. Instead, a deeper question must be asked first. What do we want our groups to accomplish? Perhaps another way to ask is, “What will be accomplished through our small group ministries if we are successful?”
You see, many pastors and church leaders launch into small group efforts without a clear sense of how they will judge success. We want small groups…well, we know we’re supposed to have them…but what are they really supposed to do?
How would you finish this sentence? “Our small groups will be successful when…” Some will answer “…when everyone is in a small group.” Okay, that’s a great goal, especially if small groups are your primary discipleship strategy. But getting 100% participation is a lofty target, to say the least. Still, if you’re building a small group plan that aims at unanimous participation, you need to know that before you get started.
How about, “We will be successful when…there is a group available to everyone.” Here, the focus isn’t on the level of participation, but focuses instead on opportunity. This goal challenges us to develop groups that can have wide appeal and make room for those with special needs or circumstances. For this goal, hearing someone say, “There’s nothing for me,” means we’re missing our chosen mark.
For some churches, small groups exist for relationship building. Often called “Connect Groups” these get-togethers have a very important goal–to help people connect with one another and, thus, feel more connected to the church.
For others, discipleship and learning are the primary target. Here, the groups are more content focused than relationally intentional. What we learn ranks a bit higher than who we’re learning with in these type of groups.
Now, relational groups will have learning moments and discipleship groups will offer relationships too, but it’s critical to know the primary goal of every group. If your goal is discipleship, you’ll want to evaluate the group primarily by that criteria. If you are targeting connection, then relationships must come before other goals and each group should be judged according to that primary standard.
Of course, you can have groups with different purposes. Some may target relational connection while others offer more intensive study. The point is to articulate your hopes for each group so you can aim your efforts most effectively.
Once you know what you want your small groups to do, you can identify the “wins” you’ll want to celebrate. Celebrating is very important. It keeps people encouraged and continually propels them toward the goals of the group. Without a clear sense of “wins” group leaders can become frustrated and not realize that they may be succeeding in significant ways.
Effective small groups make the measure of effectiveness clear. Every group cannot achieve every possible goal. You must know what you’re hoping to achieve, work toward that goal, and measure the groups success by that same clear standard. Only then can you determine if your small group is hitting the mark.