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What are you planning these days? It might be tomorrow, your education, your career path, a vacation, a wedding or maybe your retirement. Planning is an important part of our lives because it helps us live more efficiently and eliminates chaos. Plans help us live with a little more purpose and confidence. Our churches do a lot of planning: building plans, outreach plans, ministry plans, discipleship plans, etc. Developing a small group plan is essential as you begin your ministry, or as you revise it along the way.

The planning process involves three simple questions:

  1. Where are we now?
  2. Where do we want to be?
  3. What do we need to do to get there?

Let’s explore methods of answering these questions.

  1. Where are we now? What does our present small group ministry look like?
    • Step one: Map out existing groups
      1. Gather information from current small group leaders about their group. Use the form Tell Us about Your Small Group
      2. Map your existing small groups. Use Mapping Groups by Type, Age and Gender to gather information about existing small groups in your church. Compile this information in such a way that you get a clear picture, or map, of what your existing small group ministry looks like.
    • Step two: Map ministries within your church. Some existing ministries of your church are made up of small groups which already support the vision of your small group ministry. Use the following steps to determine which ministries compliment and support a small group ministry.
      1. Make a list of all the ministries and programs of your church.
      2. Use the Ministry Interview Form to interview leaders of ministries that could be included in within the small group structure.
      3. Review the list and decide which groups:
        • Are already small groups and should be resourced by the Small Group Leadership Team
        • Could potentially be incorporated
        • Are large group activities that should not be considered for including in the small group ministry
    • Step three: What are the needs of your community or neighborhood that might be met by small groups? Where do you find this information?
      1. Ask people around you in your church, your neighborhood, or in a local coffee shop
      2. Search community information found on the internet.
      3. Interview community leaders such as local newspaper writers, local school superintendents, principles and/or teachers, business owners
      4. Purchase a community survey
  2. Where do you want to be?
    • What is your vision? Why do small groups exist in your church? Take the time to define it and put it in writing.
    • Imagine around the question, “Three years from now our church has a vibrant small group ministry. What are some words or phrases that describe the small group ministry as a whole as well as the groups?”
  3. What do you need to do to get there?
    Brainstorm and imagine around questions like these. After listing all of your ideas, highlight the ones you will work on first. Use this as a working document as you continue to plan, revising your ideas along the way.
    • What will we do to cast vision to leadership and church?
    • What new groups would we like to start?
    • What training will our leaders need?
    • What resources will we need? (Money, books, volunteers, staff, etc.)

The time and energy spent planning your small group ministry before it begins will contribute to its health and sustainability. Don’t try to side-step developing a well defined plan. As you plan, remember the words of a very wise person who wrote, Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)


Thank you for sharing this helpful article! Any chance these links may be housed on a different site now? A few readers have been looking for the "Ministry Interview Form" but it looks like it may have moved. 

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