Discussion Topic

Our small group committee has asked to become more aware of the work that the Library Ministry is doing. 

Do you utilize or coordinate with your church Library to purchase study material? Encourage people to donate their small group material for others to use? 

Are you as a small...

February 21, 2011 0 2 comments

Leading toward exposure can be risky -- someone might eventually drop a bomb and stun the whole group. But that's okay. It means they are feeling safe. Responding in grace, care and empathy will...

February 14, 2011 0 1 comments

I saw the post asking about Men's Group material. What would you recommend for women small groups?

February 10, 2011 0 3 comments
Resource, Article

Coaching can be boiled down to the word itself.

There are five essential habits practiced by effective coaches of group leaders. In order to remember them, I use an acrostic: C.O.A.C.H. and put it around a star in order to make them more easy to remember.

February 10, 2011 0 0 comments

Have you ever been in a small group who wants to get to know you better, act all supportive and desire you to grow deeply?  How annoying. But now there's a new type of small group that doesn't get into all that...

February 7, 2011 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

The question that often comes up that people email or Facebook me on a regular basis is regarding resources for small groups especially in the area of discipleship small groups.

January 31, 2011 0 3 comments

When you have a clear picture of where you believe people need to be as disciples on their journey, you'll have a better handle on ministry needs and an evaluation tool for your leadership. Here's a way to start considering what a DDP looks like in your setting...

January 31, 2011 0 0 comments

Without a vision and missional purpose, programs in the church become extremely self-serving and have minimal benefit to the overall mission of the church to reach the lost and disciple them... Small groups in the life of the church ministry are no different.  I'm reposting this from January because of the crazy amount of consulting I've been doing on this topic.

January 24, 2011 0 6 comments

My wife came home from leading our church's youth group last night with a revelation, "There really isn't a sense of urgency among our youth and church to reach lost people."  I had to agree with her...

January 17, 2011 0 1 comments

I will never forget something Lymen Coleman said at my first Serendipity Small Group conference.  You can only lead a group as far as you've gone yourself.  How true that is.  Anytime I've struggled as a leader, I've come to realize...

January 10, 2011 0 0 comments

Sometimes the best way to really get to know someone is over a grueling game of Wii Tennis or an intense game of Settlers of Catan.  Groups can deepen their relationships through play...

January 3, 2011 0 0 comments

Howdy from Alamosa, CO!I'm the new kid on the block here at Small Groups and I thought I'd introduce myself a bit...

December 20, 2010 0 0 comments

If we don’t make new disciples, but only design our groups to grow up those who are already disciples, we’re missing the missional challenge of our age. 

December 15, 2010 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Our church used the Love to Pray materials (available from Faith Alive) for a whole-church small group program about 2 years ago and had a banner made to hang at church during the series. The banner is approximately 7 feet by 3 feet, could be used indoors or outdoors, and has grommets to hang it...

December 9, 2010 0 0 comments

Connectedness cannot happen by merely rubbing shoulders in the coffee room or with a church handshake or a passing of the peace on Sunday morning or at some church event. And I dare say it rarely happens in a church classroom setting either...

December 6, 2010 0 0 comments

"People resist mission because they are under-discipled, but they are also under-discipled because of the absence of any missional challenge. " The problem is, we’ve become used to seeing discipleship as a passive thing as we sit and enjoy one another as we “huddle and cuddle” together. 

November 30, 2010 0 3 comments

We’re quickly approaching the advent season when we celebrate Jesus “moving into the neighborhood.” These weeks would be a great time for small groups to find ways to be sent like Jesus into the neighborhoods  GoGGod

November 18, 2010 0 0 comments

The battle is won or lost at the level of imagination. There’s power in imagination. The Holy Spirit’s power is displayed and released at the level of imagination.  What do you imagine when you think of small groups that develop... 

November 10, 2010 0 0 comments

Out of our shepherd’s heart we will begin to intersect our lives with the lives of those we’re leading even when it’s messy and dirty. Only then will we begin to smell like the sheep we lead.  

November 3, 2010 0 1 comments

I wonder if there is a spiritual discipline called “hanging-out.” Probably not, but I think I’m going to consider it to be one. Our small group practiced this “discipline” together  

October 27, 2010 0 0 comments

These are small things, but put together help create a warm place where interactions easily happen. In our fast paced world, we tend to bypass the little hospitable things that go a long ways toward creating community. 

October 14, 2010 0 0 comments

Small groups are about forming disciples of Jesus. Maybe it’s less about what we are studying and more about following our living example.  

October 7, 2010 0 3 comments

He’s calling us to the same unity that he experiences with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Now that’s mind-boggling! Can we mere humans here on earth possibly be drawn into that kind of unity?

September 30, 2010 0 0 comments

You know the feeling. You’re asked to step into a new role either in ministry or everyday life and you feel totally inadequate for the task. That’s how a potential small group leader felt last night when I suggested he lead a group for the first time.

September 23, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Aunque este título es el nombre que lleva el material de estudio bíblicos para grupos pequeños, es también además un método de estudio. Descubriendo Tu Biblia es estudiar juntos la Biblia a través de preguntas que nacen de la Escritura y que a través de las preguntas, aprendemos a aplicar las...

September 23, 2010 0 1 comments



Being humble and observing are marks of the Holy Spirit's wisdom. Good leaders read people and seek to care for their followers. Wisdom is spiritual and most of us struggle to find it because we like to frame issue's or problems or leadership into the human context. You need humility to be maluable enough to discern the  Holy spirit"s voice. and understand the Scriptures

posted in: Smelly Leaders

Gracias por leer el contenido....los invito ahora a comentar, poner sus ideas, pensamientos, opiniones, etc.
Si han utilizado este método, ¿cuáles han sido los resultados? ¿cuál es la reacción de sus participantes?

I am being humbled every day by disease, but the atvantages of needed God and the wisdom He teaches through hardship are profound. Peace be with you.

Thank-you Kelib! It's so true that if we listen to the Holy Spirit, we will find ordinary, humble ways to show compassion to those we meet "along the way."

Thanks Allen!

I haven't read "Sticky Church", so I will have to add that to my reading list. I haven't decided if I want to drop the money to get Logos 4 yet. But I will have to look into that too.

We have done one test run with a group and it went well. They talked for two hours before they cut themselves off (and we only provided 6 questions!). Folks seemed to really appreciate digging a little deeper, particularly with application. I think it will be interesting to see what the long term effects will be on a congregation in a very busy urban-suburban context.

Blessings to you in CO!


posted in: Sermon Study Group


Sorry for getting to this so late.  The forums were incredibly slow for awhile so I haven't been back for awhile.

To answer your question.  Yes, we do sermon-based small groups. Larry Osborne's book, "Sticky Church" is a big help here.  But the truth is the pastor is the one who knows the best questions to ask. I tend to write out questions as I'm prepping and studying a sermon -- especially questions that would take people further into the text and especially particular to personal life application.

Another source that I frequent is the Serendipity Bible which is the small group leaders' best friend. It has good discussion questions for every pericope in the bible.  Get one -- you won't be disappointed.  I use it to fill in gaps for each lesson.  And since I do a lot of my sermon study on Logos 4 I can make the handouts for discussion right there with the "handouts" app.

Works great.


Hope that helps.


posted in: Sermon Study Group

It's easy to wintness for Jesus in puplic if you are humble enough to observe and show compassion to people around us every day. The holy Spirit does the work. you just have to be brave and act.

This conversation reminds me what Jesus told the rich man to due if he wanted to follow Him. If lifes demands and whether or not a group is to our comfort level or that there is even the concept of a barrier preventing God from accomplishing something means we haven't (sold) are other riches. We all do it without a thought. Small group attendence and ridding our fear of demonstrating our faith to strangers, the stronger our faith becomes. After all the Holy Spirit does the work.  we have small part to play as open vessel willing to reach out to all people.

 Mavis, you asked a great question. "What it mean to make groups easy to join?" A few things come to mind. Small group choices and how to join them need to be communicated clearly and often. This can be done through newsletters, bulletins, lobby displays, websites, Facebook, personal invitations etc. Many churches launch new small groups a couple of times a year, often Sept. and Jan. During these "launches" people who are not in a group are given the opportunity to join a new or existing group. Also, people need to know that they are free to try a different group if they'd like to. Who wants to be stuck in a group where they are uncomfortable? This requires some thick skin on the leader's part, but in the long run is better for everybody involved. Often groups have natural breaking points at summer and Christmas. These are good opportunities to give people the freedom to move to another group or start a new one.

Aguilla1 makes a great point. The easiest way for people to join a group is through a simple invitation.

Anybody else want to share in idea or two?

Part of the Kuyperian part of the CRC tradition is also to minister to those who create the structures that are partially responsible for making others poor.  They are the ones you guys don't seem to want to minister to.  To be sure, they are a tough, self-sufficient and know-it-all bunch, but they need the gospel as well, even though they don't experience that need.  But we know them: they are us and others like us.  

The problem is that amongst ourselves we do not talk about our involvement in and responsibility for some of the oppressive structures.  It is easier to restrict out Bible studies to personal, churchy and "spiritual" topics.  But if we were to set up groups intentionally  addressing such structural issues,  we might not feel as comfortable as the above descriptions of white collar groups suggest. 

I realize that Evangelicals have always avoided that strata, probably because they don't have the necessary insight and they are afraid of them.  I like to think of the CRC as more than Evangelicals in this respect, but maybe that was so in the past only? 



 One resource that might help is When Helping Hurts. I think it does a good job of explaining why we are ALL poor, and why sometimes when the "haves" try to help the "have nots," they are actually hurting themselves and those they are trying to help.

 Many members in our church are quite busy and having another 'meeting' every month or so is not for them!

Simple invitations and then let people go to a small group is best without trying to force members to come.

 We're encouraging small groups again (we have some functioning already). I'd love to hear more specifically what you would consider "easy" when you say to make it easy to join. 

I have found that sermon-based small groups are a great way to start new groups. We have been using sermon-based groups for almost a year now and people really appreciate them.

One thing I have discovered is that people find the application part of the discussion to be difficult. Basically the application part of the discussion takes the message of the sermon based on scripture and asks, "so how's that going for you?" It requires a level of commitment to be held accountable and vulnerable. Good leaders can model that and encourage it.

Faith Alive has a program we have used, called Discover Your Gifts. Here's a link to the student guide: http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Discover-Your-Gifts-Student-Book There's also a teacher guide and a version intended for young people.

I haven't seen any video materials.

Are you planning to use the material with new Christians, young people, a mixture etc? We found the material interesting but perhaps best suited to those who are new to the concept of spiritual gifts. There is more in-depth material available, but this is a great "survey" course.

I believe it has to be 'easy' to join a group; then concentrate on the quality of each group as Ruth states.

How about this? In the book, "The Complete Book of Questions" by Garry Poole, you'll find 1001 conversations starters. As you move towards the back of the book, you'll find some that are a little more intentional about leading into spiritual discussions. I also like the idea of inviting some folks over and asking them to write down some spiritual questions they would like to discuss. Future discussions together would be shaped around these questions.

I'm hoping others will chime in with more suggestions!

"Experiencing Community" by Thom Corrigan is a bit dated, but still has some valuable helps in it for groups that are just getting started. I know of a church that used it recently with a turbo group with great success.

I noticed a video-based study called "What If We Cared" by Alan Danielson. It is asks the questions, "What if we cared?", "What if we were honest?", "What if we failed?" and What if we got off the couch?" Check it out and let us know what you think!

Wow, Ruth... sounds like I could have wrote this same post. My husband and I have had the same desire to reach the neighbors. Thanks for the openness about the "struggle" you and your husband felt at initiating this gathering. A few years ago, I had a "recipe" exchange at my home to invite the women in the neighborhood. I, too, wondered if only one or two would come, but my living room was full of women and some great food! We know that relationship needs to happen first before people are comfortable to dig deeper into spiritual conversations. My intent was to continue this effort, but I never followed thru further. Ugh. We truly believe that most neighbors have a desire to connect, but don't know how or are apprehensive about making the first move. We must continue on! Would love to hear how your ice-cream evenings go.

The question I have is there good "study" material (I use that term loosely) that can be used with either just women, or couples that would promote non-threatening conversation yet be intentional?

You ask really good questions, Mark! I'm anxious to hear how others respond.

1. I'm not sure what you mean by "numbers." If you mean how many people are in a group, I think it's safe to say a small group has to be more than 2 people but is best if it doesn't exceed 12. Of course, the purpose of a group will help determine this.

2. While "enemy" is a pretty strong word, it does seem that if a church has most of its focus on building multiple programs, there is naturally less focus on building a healthy small group ministry. Mostly, it's a matter of time. How many different programs, groups or other ministries can people be involved in given our busy lives? Books like "Sticky Church" and "Simple Church" are examples of approaching ministry with less focus on programs so that time and energy is prioritized upon going about discipleship and mission through the community that forms in small groups. Halter and Smay also point out that consumerism, individualism and materialism are "enemies" of developing the kind of shared life that leads to transformation. Read "The Tangible Kingdom."

3. Wow! That really is a chicken-or-the-egg question! Do I dare say it can be a both/and? A church that takes mission seriously will be much more likely to develop missional small groups. I can't imagine a missional church doing ministry without them! Church plants have the privilege of starting this way. But I do believe that if a group of people committed to figuring out how to do mission together would intentionally start a mission-shaped small group, they will lead the way for the rest of the congregation. Once the stories are told about how God is using their groups to transform lives or neighborhoods, others will catch the vision. If a church could even get to 30% of its small groups being intentional about forming disciples for mission----watch out world! A good starting point may be to invite the most mission minded people in a church to form a small group that is intentional about mission

Thanks for the great ideas, Mike. I'd like to be in your group!

Re: Quiet Quint

I find splitting a group into smaller groups of three (triads) for the application portion of a study really works to get a more quiet person to talk some. Do this regularly and keep the triads with the same people and Quiet Quint will begin to trust the other two. It is easier to trust two, than ten and two of one's own gender--or at least I find it so.

I know of Shy Sally who never said a word in the small group of men and women but when the group moved into triads, she talked freely each time with the other women in her triad. It appears that she found it less intimidating.

I had an exceptionally shy man in one group I led. He was in my triad. It still was hard for him to talk in the triad--a man of very few words--but he did talk some and got very vulnerable with our other triad partner and me. One thing he told us was: "I learn best by listening. I hate it when small group leaders feel they have to get me to talk. I love listening to everyone else. I wish small groups would let me just listen." As a group leader I no longer spend time in the group wondering to myself how I can get him to talk. I now realize I can best serve him by allowing him to listen, guilt-free.

This is what works for me.

Re Talks too much:

I have found that what helps is to have a covenant that we read at the beginning of each meeting, just like recovery groups like AA and Alanon do. I find that small group members begin to self-police behavior since this is fresh in their mind each meeting. Someone might say, "oops I am talking too much, sorry about that." The covenant point I most like to use to keep people from overtalking is: "I will listen for God in each person’s reflections and stories, encouraging whenever I see the opportunity—prioritizing listening over talking"

Of course it is pretty difficult to implement this covenant if problems in a group have already developed--it will look like a back handed way to say something to a heavy talker.

The best time to start this with a small group is at the first meeting and then read the covenant at the beginning of every session together.

It works!

Great content! I'm going to email this network to a couple of friends that would be interested in this.

posted in: Let's Go!

Congratulations, Ruth! Thanks for getting this going. I look forward to reading the comments and ideas of others.

posted in: Let's Go!

Love this. I find it much easier to point out what small groups are NOT than what they ARE......and this is a great start on that road. Plus, as you point out, it necessarily eliminates some groups who try to pass themselves off as "small groups".

Three Questions:

1. I notice you used no numbers.....probably intentional. I wonder if you think the 80's CRC "Care Group" model many churches still use is capable of achieving this or if a scrapping of those would be a necessary stump to grow upon.

2. At our church, we're seeking to exit the "program" era of our church and base most things out of our small groups. Do you see "programmatic" approaches to ministry as an inevitable enemy of small group development?

3. I love the "missional" element of your model, but a chicken-or-egg question for you......does a missional church create missional small groups or do missional small groups build a missional church, in your opinion?

Hey Mike,
Sorry it took so long, I haven't checked out the SG section for awhile.

Check out ReGroup, a DVD study that helps groups learn to be communal groups. I've had great success with this.

Also check smallgrouptrader.com There is a lot of great stuff on that site. Also smallgroups.com has fantastic study resources as well. I renew my membership every year and it is 110 % worth it.

http://buildingchurch.net/g2s.htm offers a free online survey, ala C. Peter Wagner. I don't know of any video curriculum though. Godspeed.

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.

Very astute observation. Sadly "missional" is being too often captured by the cool, hip, well-educated crowd, which results in it being branded for what it is not. This does not mean that those you describe in Symptom #1 should not be missional, but when that is all that is promoted then there are problems. (BTW-I'm white-male, educated, use a Mac and an iPhone, and wear Rob Bell glasses.)

We have struggled with this at our church. We are sitting on the edge of the inner city and the suburbs and we are a church led by over-educated white people. We had a 10-week series last fall on ministering to the poor and we struggled repeatedly with all of the material that we found on this subject. Most of it focused on how middle-class white people could do something nice for the poor. There is little out there about how people from different economic backgrounds can sit down together and learn from one another. As we practiced this alternative approach, we found that those who are labeled as under-resourced don't want our nice handouts. They actually want relationships.

But this is challenging because we have been told in the while. middle class, Christendom view of church that when we minister to people that we go to them with a predetermined plan of how we will minister to them. To address the issues that we raise, we need to learn new skills and quite honestly, few have recognized this need much less have developed any resources that can equip us.

Hi Ruth - Our church has done both the 40 days of Purpose and 40 days of Community and in my opinion, it was great for the church. With the 40 days of Purpose, we met in homes on Sunday evenings instead of our evening worship service. With 40 days of Community, we still met in homes but also kept the Sunday evening worship service in place as well.

Currently, we are doing a 6 week series called Connecting in Christ Together from the Experiencing Christ Together series. Check out www.lifetogether.com. The cirriculum is less costly than the 40 days but written and produced by the same Purpose Driven company. We meet for a time of Praise & Worship in the Sanctuary and then view the DVD teaching. After that we break up into small groups using classrooms. At the same time there is a Kids Program for PreK-5th grade in the Fellowship Hall.

You can email me at memberdirector@shalomcrc.org if you have other questions.

have you considered, "the Measure of a Man" by Gene Getz? I was with a group that has been using it for years and it is very appealing to seekers as well.

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.

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. ;-)


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).

For those of you who miss the Small Group Summit, it was great. I'll be posting highlights soon, either here on my blog.

Wow Mark, super tough for sure.
I know what you mean by the two camps. Wouldn't it be nice to see the Acts 2 church in action and what that looked like. I'm not sure, but I thought I read or heard somewhere that Tim Keller's church is like that. I can't imagine Wall Street folks hanging with the street people in a small group kind of way. But I think that's what's happening. I think I'll check into that a bit more. That's a good one to kick around though.

Amen.........see, we were in agreement the whole time :)

Oh no, don't get me wrong I would never be a wrecking ball guy. My "chuck 'em" comment may have been a bit too harsh. But I would make sure that any new group started would be discipleship, missional focused. The problem I have found in almost every established church I've consulted with or have talked with leaders there is extremely poor coaching, training or none at all. People become disenfranchised with church programs and especially small groups because of it.

The CRC suggested the Principle Based small group model for years, which has turned out to be a big problem especially when leaders are not coached or trained effectively to make sure people are moving forward to something deeper. The idea was that these groups would intentionally direct people toward a deeper group, IE. someone from a scrapbooking group would eventually join a women's bible study or join a care/share small group with their spouse. It rarely if ever happened and most of these groups really just functioned as clubs.

While you cannot force people into something deeper, with guided intentionality you are more apt to turn the ship a little quicker. I think another fair point in this discussion is to say that when the leadership is making the vision clear and living it, people begin to see that the little group/club they are doing just doesn't fit and perhaps there is something of value to a different approach. But if you have neither clear communicated vision of mission and ministry and the church leadership is not on board and you don't have effectively trained and coached small group leaders, you're sunk.

I think it's fair the choose as a small group focus to be more intentional with new groups you are starting, encourage the other existing ones to jump on board and see where things fall. My experience has shown that eventually the new focused caring and missional groups will win out because their value rises far above the rest; people begin to hear about it and want it. Of course there will be some groups that have existed since the inception of the church that will never die and that's okay, it may be part of their identity as a congregation. That's fine, but I don't think the church should put a lot of time and energy in that direction.

I think we pander people in the church way too much thus enabling them not to grow toward discipleship and are startled when we challenge them toward it.

Re: Small Groups in an existing environment

My only issue with that argument is that, if you yank a moving ship around that quickly, people are liable to fall off. Now, obviously you can't pander to everyone's little existing pet groups, but, as you well know, small groups can take lots of different forms.

My point was simply that if you have only knowledge-based or activity-based groups, which many established churches are full of (as you pointed out), challenge them to go deeper and more missional where they currently are (missional=being the Church where you are). Maybe they can't handle it and you end up ending the program right then and there.....but I should think you can give people a chance to make their existing groups more missional and spiritually deeper.

The added bonus is that people don't see the pastor/small group pastor as the human wrecking ball telling them that they now need to be in new small groups with new people when they've already got a level of intimacy with a group.

I agree that the simple church model is fantastic goal for streamlining discipleship, but forcing it on people suddenly, rather than over time, has the potential to be very divisive simply because it is an unknown.


I really believe it starts with the vision and purpose of the groups set forth by the leadership. If they are just another program of many, then I think it will be difficult to form any real depth because people are thinking programatic and since no other program gets deep, why should small groups.

I found that in an established church the statement has to be made that this is going to be something really different than they are used to; it's about accountability and growing spiritually not just in more knowledge. I tell them that it is not going to be a Bible study, but where real transformation happens; be ready to be uncomfortable, but if you desire to grow as a disciple then stick with it.

The vision of what they are supposed to be must be absolutely clear. I've even told people in a previous church that they may not turn it into a Bible study where no one gets real. I'm a hard ass sometimes.

Then you have to spend a lot of time with your leaders training them what it means to lead such a group. There is some great stuff out there especially on smallgrouptrader.com (FREE) and smallgroups.com (worth the $99). Then coaching them while their dealing with this new phenomenon they've never encountered before is essential. Otherwise they will not have the vision, will become discouraged and momentum will slow.

Developmentally it is hard for groups to become immediately transparent. It's always a process that must be nurtured and sometimes people need to be challenged along the way. Leaders need to learn to ask the right questions that don't leave people safe. And they lead the way in being vulnerable.

I have found that accountability groups can work if the people are committed to it. I started one with some guys that is still going strong. But it is only 4 for good reason. If it's a moral compass kind of group then small is better.

Our sermon-based small groups are the best I've seen as far as taking the application to heart. As I'm writing the sermon, I know what questions I want the groups to talk about. I know where the folks are at and what stuff they struggle with so I'm able to formulate the questions to be very personal. Often each group member sets a goal for the week in relation to the questions and they follow up the next week. Some leaders even started calling their people during the week to see how things were going.

The groups also commit to doing mission together in the community with their families. That has really deepened the group as they serve and debrief.

one of the questions I have is how to make these groups more than simple discussion places. How do we get these groups to really be open and accountable to one another? I know it starts with getting to know one another, but often the material that you get for small groups starts superficially and sets that up as the tone for the entire group time, never moving any deeper into core struggles and issues that are crucial for growing in holiness.

For example, I know that sex and money are two MAJOR areas that most of us (especially men, but women too) fail to live righteously in, where can we go to get real support for these kinds of areas.

What kinds of groups have you seen work in building real accountability into the lives of Christians?

"2. Don't fix what ain't broke --> usually, established churches already have men's groups, women's groups, bible studies, prayer groups, etc. Instead of replacing those for people, recognize that they work and grandfather them into the small group structure. Start calling all your bible studies small groups; call your worship teams small groups; then encourage them to act like small groups and work unconnected people into new groups.

What's your take on this?"

I don't think this is valid at all. Just the amount of groups you've listed show that the church is just too busy for small groups to be effective.

We've begun a visioning process here and already we are looking at how to simplify to make disciples. I am convinced that many church systems inherently keep people from actually becoming disciples even though they have lots of what they call disipleship ministries.

I think we talked about this during our coaching times, that churches need to have a structure for growing disciples that actually works. Business kills it. If the small group doesn't take you to deeper personal application and hold you accountable to these new commitments then chuck 'em. Keep it simple so people can actually be involved without feeling guilty.

You know what I mean?

Hi Sam,

Yes, fancy meeting you here. LOL!

I agree with what you're saying. I've been thinking a lot about "Simple Church" and the three basics to what makes simple churches so effective. Loving God, loving others and serving others. Most of these churches use small groups to especially make the last two work. And it makes all the sense in the world.

As you know I'm just getting my feet wet over here in Colorado, but things are moving right along. The church was itching to get going with a more missional focus. I brought up the small group idea, which they hadn't been doing for quite a few years and the groups were so-so when they did have them. We had a kick-off event in the middle of October and committed to a seven week (including a fun night or ministry night together) semester and then reevaluate. We had four good groups who picked their own leader. I spent 3 weeks training (used a lot of video footage from smallgrouptrader.com -- FREE).

The groups went amazing. I chose to start with sermon-based groups and they took off. People really love them. They appreciate that the discussions are application heavy challenging them to really look at themselves. Our next semester starts through the Lent to Easter weeks.

We are having a group eval next Wednesday over an appreciation dinner that I am cooking for them... Gourmet don't ya know.

I've been getting a lot of calls from my fellow seminary peers who are now out in the field and have no clue what to do or where to go for small group stuff. I usually get facebooked about it and point them to you and to the resources that I use. I'm not sure how many actually contact you.

I've been doing a lot of consulting on this end.

Howdy Allen. I think many small group ministries of the past had an identity crisis. They tried to do it all. I am hearing about more churches designing small groups for discipleship and mission! God is at work through small groups in the CRC!

What small group plans have you implemented?

Sam Huizenga
Home Missions Small Group Ministry Developer

Hi Allen.....funny meeting you here :)

This really brings me back to the Willow GroupLife conference. On the way home from Chicago, the discussion in our car went something like this:

Most church experts agree that there's three big keys to growing, healthy churches: small groups, great [modern] worship and children's ministry. Oddly enough, these are the three things that seem to be most lacking in our pastoral training.

That said, I've been wrestling with the issue myself. Here's the deal - if you're a chuch planter, you can infuse small group DNA into your church, and everyone talks about that. However, if you're a church "resurrector", the situation we both find ourselves in, how do you infuse small group DNA into an established church?

This is now my second try (my first one wasn't good in the small group development dept.). I see two key lessons that I learned and am now trying to apply:

1. Don't fool yourself into thinking EVERYONE is going to get into a group (ie, the old "household" model). This is bad and good. Bad because even the best big churches have 50% participation. It is good because it also means accessibility for the unchurched. For instance, our small group is meeting next week and I can invite my neighbor, who has absolutely no interest in church but wants to belong.

2. Don't fix what ain't broke --> usually, established churches already have men's groups, women's groups, bible studies, prayer groups, etc. Instead of replacing those for people, recognize that they work and grandfather them into the small group structure. Start calling all your bible studies small groups; call your worship teams small groups; then encourage them to act like small groups and work unconnected people into new groups.

What's your take on this?