What role does/should the pastor play in the small group ministry in the church?


Wanted to ask an important question regarding the pastor's role and small groups. It came up in the SG Summit online. What role does/should the pastor play in the small group ministry in the church?

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The pastor should be a small group MEMBER first and foremost. Asking people to join a structure you don't participate in is not only hypocritical, it is illogical. I like NOT leading my own small group (so I can just be a person), though I can if it proves necessary.

From a professional point of view, I would say "architect", "catalyst" and "support" for your leaders.

I think as pastors (especially in more conservative traditions like our own), we're often scared to let our people lead themselves, especially when there is an element of "teaching" going on. But, if you take the mentality that you as the pastor or one of your elders has to have a hand in every small group, you'll destine your small group program to be, well, small.

Small groups are a movement of sorts and, like any good movement, require managing more on the macro level than the micro level from the chief leader ( in fact, micro-managing will stunt their growth). But movements also need something to move towards (which comes to the vision-casting capacity of the lead pastor).


I agree with you 100%, Mark. Pastors should be first members of small groups. We play a role in being an example of what being part of a small group means: transparency, self-care and others-care, missional lifestyle, etc., etc. The pastor is the "leader" in too up front a way many times,...small groups are a great place to be "just one of the congregation."

I would also agree with the descriptors you use about pastors being "architects," etc. For me, part of that means helping various groups in the church that have been around for a long time (i.e., the Elders, the Deacons, the Worship Comittee, the Nursery Workers, etc., etc.,...) realize and make the most of the fact that they are already small groups.

Anyway, that's perhaps too specific, but for what it's worth--kudos to you, Mark! Good answer. ;-)



I agree wholeheartedly with both of you. That was a very big discussion on the SG Summit. Even the old guys like Lyman Coleman and Carl George were all over that one. Without the pastor being the champion of small groups, they will fail or just become some program like any other program.

I was trying to develop small groups in my past church, but the majority of the leadership including the pastor were not in groups although they spoke of how important they were. Just didn't wash and it was obvious by the lack of participation and many comments from small group leaders who voiced their opinions on the matter.

Another important factor I think as well is the fact that many churches in our denomination start small groups without considering how they fit into spiritual formation. I think this is the difference between a program oriented church and a discipleship minded church. In most discipleship focused churches, small groups is the main force behind spiritual formation of its members.

Great question. In my research on this, I have found that two things are needed. First, the senior pastor must be envision, support and participate in the life of the groups. If the pastor has the gifts to be the architect and champion of group life that is great. But this would require that some of the traditional senior leadership duties be given to someone else.

Second, in many circumstances, the senior leader does not have the gifts to be the group champion. In such situations, a group champion is empowered to work with the pastor to provide the support and direction for the groups.