Small groups can be a wonderful way to help people in your church become connected and involved on a more personal level. In fact, building relationships through a small group ministry helps cultivate a sense of belonging that can go a long way toward making a church feel like home and family. Churchgoers can deepen their relationship with Christ while receiving the support and encouragement of others walking the same journey.
There are a lot of ways to go about having a successful small group ministry, and your church may already have one that’s thriving. But if your church doesn’t have a small group ministry, consider starting one! It takes work, but the benefits for your church are worth it. In fact, small groups are one of the greatest discipleship tools available. The following small group launch tips are meant as suggestions — you can shift and adapt them to suit your church’s unique goals. Ready? Read on:
Before you start working out the logistics of your small group launch, it helps to determine your “why.”
Consider these questions:
- Why do you want a small group ministry at your church?
- What purpose will it serve?
- How will it help members of your congregation with their individual spiritual journeys?
Answering these will help your figure out your “why.”
Once you know your “why,” share it with your church. Hearing the heart and motivation behind your small group launch will help your congregation get on board with your new initiative. You might just find people are excited and eager to help you launch! When you first share with your church, ask people to consider leading a small group, and let them know who to get in touch with if they’re interested.
Now that you’ve found your “why,” it’s time to plan a great launch.
First, consider timing
If you’re committed to starting and sustaining a small group ministry at your church, consider the best times of the year to launch. Many churches follow the school calendar and launch groups for the fall and spring semesters, and some include summers, too. If launching three times a year sounds like too much to start with, perhaps leave out the summer portion.
Give yourself ample time to plan before your expected launch date.
Determine how you’ll support your small group leaders
Make your announcements to your congregation early enough to recruit and train your small group leaders. Have a point person in your church who is responsible for overseeing and assisting small group leaders. This could be someone on your staff, or a super volunteer who is willing to take on the role.
Hosting leadership workshops for small group leaders is also a great idea — it gives your staff a chance to pour into leaders and enable the week-to-week ministry they’re doing in their groups.
It’s also important to show your volunteer leaders your ongoing appreciation. You could host special dinners, publicly thank them during church services, or give them thoughtful gifts.
Promote your launch
Once you’ve chosen your launch date and recruited your leaders, it’s time to promote your small groups! There are several options for this:
- Sunday services: Starting two or three Sundays before the launch event, let your congregation know it’s coming up. The first Sunday you promote the launch is a great time to take a couple of extra minutes to remind your church of the “why” behind your small group ministry.
- Booklet or info sheet: Depending on the amount of groups you’ll have as you start up, it might be nice to print out basic info about each group in a small booklet or on an info sheet. This way, people in your church can hold onto them, take them home, and consider which group they might like to join.
- Website: Add your small group launch event to your calendar or “Upcoming Events” area. You can also create a designated “Find A Group” page on your website that lists the name, description, meeting day and time, and contact info for each group.
- Social Media: Use Facebook and Instagram to build excitement around your group launch. Short, simple posts with photos or graphics are great ways to get the word out amongst your church members. They also help serve as a reminder to sign up.
Host a launch event
Hosting a launch event lets people in your church meet small group hosts, talk with them about their vision for their groups, and sign up to join if they’re interested. After service on Sunday is a great time to do this — people will be at church already and can easily stop by a small group booth or table on their way out. If you host a cookout or lunch for everyone, they’re likely to stay around even longer!
Keep it growing
As you continue to grow your small group ministry, you may find that it is difficult to recruit people to leave groups they are currently attending to start new ones. That’s okay! You can encourage those in your congregation not participating to start their own — let people know that if there isn’t a group that matches what they’re looking for, they can apply to start one!
You could also consider asking members of current groups to take a brief hiatus to help jumpstart a new group.
Other points to keep in mind:
- Safety. It’s important to run your small group leaders through background checks. People understand this is standard procedure.
- Locations. Many people will feel comfortable hosting in their own homes, but some may prefer not to or not have adequate space. Coffee shops and casual restaurants are a good choice, but you can also consider opening up space in your church at certain times to give people a place to meet.
- Types of groups. What will your groups be uniting around? A sermon series? A curriculum? A book? Will they be free to establish their own plan? This can be a mix, just make sure you’ve thought out what works best for your church beforehand.
We hope these guidelines help your church launch a successful small group ministry! Small groups look different from church to church, but a little thoughtful planning can help members find a way to connect on a deeper level with their church community, and with Christ.