By Joel Comiskey, Fall 2022
One of the greatest dangers in small group ministry is to start too quickly. The allure of a 1,2,3 instant formula is tempting because pastors and leaders are looking for ways to grow their churches right now. When they hear about a book that has a seven-week plan to instantly start lots of groups, many pastors and leaders try it. Why? Because they are looking for a way to quickly jump-start their churches.
’ve found that the instant group syndrome often does more harm than good. Here are a few reasons:
- Shutting down the groups after a few months can easily feel like a failure
- Leadership suffers for lack of regular, planned coaching
- Leaders lack preparation and don’t know what to do after the initial group starts
- The lead pastor often has very little to do with the overall vision of small group ministry
- Members and leaders feel like the new groups are just one more thing in the church’s busy agenda
We at JCG recommend another way. We recommend following three steps when making a transition to small groups:
- Pre-transition—preach values to the congregation and the lead pastor shares the future vision with influential members to make sure they are on board with small group ministry.
- Transition—start with a pilot group that the lead pastor is a part of. Vision flows from the lead pastor and the first groups need to see in practice what they will be doing in the future. The pilot group normally lasts 4 months to one year and future leaders take turns leading it.
- Post-transition—building the key components like coaching leaders, equipping future leaders, and making cells the base of the church.
I mentioned in my last blog that the New York construction workers were still laying the foundation of the new world trade center four years after the 9-11 disaster, even though they began clearing out the debris in 2001 and started laying the foundation in 2002. Construction workers know that the foundational structure is critical for the health and longevity of a first-class building.
So what happens after the pilot group multiplies and the post-transition stage begins? Here are some key components:
- Regular coaching meetings for the new leaders. I recommend that the new leaders meet together for coaching at least once per month after the pilot group multiplies.
- Lead pastor is intimately involved in coaching the new leaders
- Lead pastor continues to lead a cell or participate as part of a cell leadership team
- Fine-tuning of equipping track for all in the church
- As groups multiply, reducing the number of programs in the church and asking everyone to be part of one of the life-giving small groups
The new world trade center opened its doors in 2006. The building went up quite quickly after clearing out the rubble and laying a strong foundation. Since the initial opening in 2006, they have added many new additions and displays.
The post-transition process is ongoing in cell-based ministry and takes continual work and care. The good news is that it is well worth the effort because the goal is to make more and better disciples for the glory of God.