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Making Small Groups the Hub of your Ministry

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This past week I had the opportunity to spend some time at NorthCoast Church with Larry Osborne and his team to talk about Leadership and Small Groups (I’ll post more take aways in the weeks to come). If you don’t know already, NorthCoast is an outlier when it comes to small groups and you need to get to know these guys. While the norm across the nation is hovering at about 50% of weekend worship attendance in groups, NorthCoast is shattering that norm and boasts just over 90% of their weekend worship attendance in groups. That was enough for us to get on a plane and spend some time learning from these guys. Here are a few of my take aways:

1. Cut the Competition

You’re doing ministry in a world where people will give you 2 time slots. Leaders will give you 3, and ministry animals will give you 4. Consistently across the nation, every time you see a higher percentage of people in groups you see less competition for groups. That means fewer classes and other programs (menu driven ministry) for people to choose among. Groups become the step, not a step.

2. Limit midweek Children’s Events

Midweek kids ministry will kill your small groups because parents will always choose their children first over their small group. See above.

3. Important People are in the Important Things

Simply put, if your top leaders are not in Small Groups then Small Groups are not important. If your Staff are not in a Small Group then Small Groups are not a big deal.

4. Count and Respond to the Facts

You can’t respond to reality if you don’t know what reality is. That’s why you need to keep attendance in your Small Groups. In churches we’re often guilty of counting numbers instead of faces. We may think that we grew by 100 people in groups last year but because we don’t count faces and only numbers we could have grown by 300 and lost 200 and never knew.

5. Measure Retention

The most important measure of organizational health is retention. This is why you need to measure not just the high water mark of sign ups but also the retention of volunteers, of Small Group participants, & leaders.

6. Talk Like Everyone is in a Group

It may sound counterintuitive but a constant drip is more powerful than the momentary splash of large-scale marketing. This is why you need to make a reference to Small Group homework & conversations somewhere in each of your weekend sermons. This is not an advertisement or announcement, but a normal part of the conversation. For example: “I don’t have the time to talk about this but you’re going to talk about this in your Small Groups this week.”


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation

4 Responses to “Making Small Groups the Hub of your Ministry”

  1. Andrew Mason November 20, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    Love the points here Paul! Especially #1, it’s the hardest thing for churches and Christians from program-driven churches to understand. #6 is how you build a small group culture.

    Good stuff, thanks!

    • Paul Alexander November 21, 2013 at 8:47 am #

      Thanks Andrew! Larry and the guys are NorthCoast are doing a stellar job! Lots to learn from those guys!

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