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10 Small Group Questions

Wed, 23 Mar 2011 - 9:15 AM CST

10sgq

By Tom Bougher, Adult Resource Consultant

 

1.    How do you evaluate Sunday School  and Small Group ministries? (Are Small Groups more effective than Sunday School classes?)

A.   Our real purpose is to fulfill Matthew 28:19 

Make disciples of all nations - Jesus. 

So, the valid proof of any ministry should be in the quality of Discipleship, not numbers alone. 

  • Are people becoming more Christ-like?
  • Are they disciple makers? and ....
  • Are they leading others to become disciple makers?

Small Groups and SS Classes are only as good as the teacher/leader.  The relationship the teacher/leader has with God is crucial - he/she can't lead beyond personal experience.  That is why it is of utmost importance to choose the right leaders and train them - that includes on-going training.  Effective leaders are students of the Word.  Paul's instruction to Timothy was ... Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.    

Spiritual hunger is contagious and perpetual.  Infect someone today! 

2.    Is there a preferred method of starting Small Group ministry?

A.   I have experienced first-hand the many faux pas of SG ministry.  I offered: Interest groups, Bible groups, Book Study Groups, Free Market Groups, whatever the label, I tried it.  Note: Most of my failed efforts came after attending a church conference and hearing about a successful SG church and trying to copy their efforts.  That was futile and every failure led to apathy.

I have now observed a better way to start SG ministry:  Test it FIRST.  That means find the right leaders and start SMALL.  By starting with leaders who are totally behind your ministry, you have a greater chance of success.  Know the purpose of your groups.  After 3 months - evaluate.  Adjust as needed and test it again for another 3 months. 

(Important: These groups are not yet made public.) 

The first successful small groups become templates for your new groups to duplicate and you have actual SG stories to tell - validating the ministry.  Randall Neighbour - author of The Naked Truth about Small Group Ministry advocates these prototype groups.

3.    How do I know what is being taught in my SG ministry?

A.   You don't if you never attend a group.  Lead Pastors need to observe these Small Groups first hand.  Staff participation is not an option.  I suggest that the Lead Pastor shows up to a group unannounced and monitor the groups personally.

 

4.    How do I choose effective SG curriculum?

A.   Here are five important questions to ask as you choose curriculum:

  • Does this curriculum make the Bible easier to understand?
  • Does this curriculum corroborate what we believe?
  • Does this curriculum help people live the life?
  • Does this curriculum help people to grow into stronger disciples?
  • Does this curriculum lead people to become disciple makers?

 If your curriculum misses the mark in ANY of these areas, you are using the wrong curriculum.

5.    Can I have an effective Small Group using DVD curriculum?

A.    The short answer is NO.  You can't have an effective small group or class without an effective teacher/leader.  I know that you want to get these groups started yesterday, but DVD's and facilitator groups are always short lived.  (DVD's can work IF you have a prepared/trained leader who is building relationships and encouraging interaction.) 

Caution: I would not build my SG ministry around DVD's alone.

 

6.    How do I find/train leaders for SG ministry?

A.   Find people that already have other people following them.  Make sure they are also your supporters and use the Test Model approach first.  (See answer to Question #2 above.)  Give them time to try it and evaluate.  Meet with them every month and let them give you feed-back.  (Adjustments now, are so much easier than later.)  A great book to start them out with is Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership by Michael C. Mack.  This is a short, easy to read pocket guide.

Once you get the first leaders going, let them be the trainers for your next groups. 

7.    Do my SG leaders need to be great teachers?

A.   Great teachers are sometimes found underneath a heart that loves people.  Your leaders will need to build relationships as they lead.  I believe that great leaders will be great teachers, but not all great teachers are great leaders.  A burden for people to know God and His Word is an essential part of effective Small Groups and SS Classes.  If all a teacher does is share information - they are NOT effective.  It is so important to observe a prospective leader as they teach before you label them as a leader of a SG or a SS Class.

8.    Should Small Groups have an expiration date?

A.    All groups are faced with some undeniable truths.  Thom Rainer says that groups become families - somewhere between 6 and 18 months.  They become Families - meaning to the exclusion of others.  We must be aware of this tendency and make every effort to include others.  Having an empty chair is one of the ways SG authors say to keep evangelism on the front burner.  Including neighbors should be a goal of every SG. 

Small Groups and SS Classes need to see their spiritual lives like we look at physical families.  My son is now married and he and his wife live in their own house with their little boy.  This is normal -Children grow up and move away.  But we still have reunions and celebrations together!    I suggest that you offer SG ministry every fall and spring - like school semesters and allow people to make changes as necessary.  (You may also want to include a summer term.  This is a great time to encourage outside activities.) 

Hint: In your monthly SG leader meetings make sure you celebrate every group that births another group. The act of celebrating makes birthing a new group the normal, and expected outcome.

9.    Is Connecting/Building Relationships a good enough reason to validate SG ministry?

A.   No, if you are only building relationships in your SG ministry you are missing a huge opportunity to pour truth into the hearts and lives of broken people.  The Word of God is living and active, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  God's Word will lead them from brokenness to healing.  Don't have Small Groups or SS Classes without it!

10. I am starting a new church, should I start with Sunday School classes or  Small Groups?

A.   Yes!  I am strongly promoting that churches consider doing both!  I know that your current building may dictate what you can offer.  But don't miss any chance you have to encourage someone to live the life.  It is never enough to just get them saved.  Remember it is our assignment to disciple every nation!  Start with those people around you right now and REPEAT!  If you have available class room space, why not offer a discipleship class?  Small Groups can start with current believers doing a prayer walk through their neighborhood. Praying for families and neighbor's needs as they walk.

 

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