On a lone weekend day an early A.M. phone call was received that announced the death of a soldier. This particular soldier is not well known and the death followed an all too familiar lament – died in the line of duty.
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
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
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
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
4. How do I choose effective SG
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
Does this curriculum help people live
Does this curriculum help people to
grow into stronger disciples?
Does this curriculum lead people to
become disciple makers?
curriculum misses the mark in ANY of these areas, you are using the wrong
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
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
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
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.