Many churches find it difficult to change the culture of their small group ministry from merely assimilating new people to forming disciple making communities. While not all churches share this struggle, if you find yourself in this predicament you are certainly not alone. The relational cracks, lack of focus on making disciples, and intentional leadership development in the foundation of small groups ministries are exposed when they are repurposed to become more fruitful.
Lessons learned from churches when things did no go as planned:
I know of several churches that have transitioned from traditional small group ministries to disciple making communities. The organizational life cycle of even the healthiest churches are prone to create small group systems that establish a life of their own. Over time, if small groups are not engaged in disciple making from the inception, refocusing those groups is extremely challenging.
Pitfalls to Avoid doing when Transitioning Small Groups to Disciple Making Communities:
Pitfall #1: Too much change in a short amount of time
Pitfall #2: Shortage of leaders who really embrace the vision
Pitfall #3: Lack of preparation
If you are considering making this shift in your small group ministry, here are three ways to avoid the pitfalls above:
Tip #1: Reflect on the implications
Think through the implications of transitioning to disciple-making communities. There are real seen and unseen implications that you might not be able to anticipate on your own. Recruit your most engaged people to help you navigate the right way to shift in the new direction you are asking your small group leaders to take.
Tip #2: Try a pilot and learn
Seasoned leaders tend to experiment with this more often than newer leaders. Notice that I did not say older vs. younger. Experience is the best teacher. The leaders who have seen the fruit of past attempts when they failed to observe the three pitfalls above have learned the wisdom of testing an idea before broadly implementing it.
Tip #3: Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
Communication with your key leaders and the congregation throughout the process will make the journey more attractive and more fruitful for everyone involved. The most important things to keep in mind are who you need to communicate with and what you need to communicate. The amount of change you are introducing will inform how much to communicate, how to communicate it, and how often it must be communicated.
Coaching leaders who are transitioning small groups to disciple making communities:
- Who can you ask to help you assess your current small group ministry?
- What is currently working in your small groups?
- What is working against your vision to make disciples through your small groups?
- What changes do you need to make?
- What is a realistic time frame to make those changes?
If you are looking for resources to help you to transition your small groups to disciple making communities, here are two resources that will help you look at what is involved in the Change Management process.