A New Way to Look At Small Groups
Establish the purpose of the church. The purpose of the church is to glorify God by making disciples of all nations. That one statement contains the vision (glorify God), the mission (make disciples who make disciples), and the goal (of all nations) of the church. In other words, the church exists to make God famous as everyone makes disciples locally among the unchurched and globally among the unreached.
Evaluate the current practices of the small group ministry. This necessitates answering a challenging but essential question. Does our small group ministry accomplish the purpose of the church? Are participants being equipped to make disciples who make disciples? If so, Halleluja! Fight to keep it that way. If not, what needs to change? In other words, how can we leverage our existing small group ministry to align with God's purpose for the church?
Here are some suggestions.
Pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit. Revelation 2:7
The key to transitioning from a non-multiplying to a multiplying small group ministry is prayer and obedience to God's Spirit. This may require a transition from a knowledge-based paradigm that focuses on transferring information to an obedience-based paradigm that values doing, not just knowing.
Educate about the primacy of multiplication.
Inform people about the purpose of the church and the outcome of the "challenging" question above. This justifies why things might need to change.
Communicate the primacy of multiplication in every aspect of church, including small groups. Everyone should be on the pathway of making disciples who make disciples. Therefore, every ministry should contribute toward this outcome.
Resource for multiplication.
Promote multiplication through every means: word of mouth, testimonies during the vision casting part of the service (video, scripted, Q&A), printed literature, and virtual information.
Introduce a universal tool used in both the growth and the go settings. This allows for people to make a seamless transition. Teach small group leaders about Discovery Bible Study, Facilitator notes, and Story Sets. Emphasize asking good follow-up questions in groups composed of believers (included in the Facilitator notes).
Encourage and enable migration from growth-oriented groups to go teams. Do this by incorporating hard start and end dates and shorter sessions (five weeks on, two weeks off). You'll be surprised how popular and effective this is. Short sessions increase participation, develop friendships, and afford an easy departure from a small group to a go team.
Offer practical and proven next-step resources that train people how to make disciples: Start Up, Multiply, and Reach.
Model multiplication. This begins with the small group ministry leader and ideally progresses to the Pastor and elders. They should be the first to matriculate through the resources mentioned above. Change the culture of the church from the back of the room as well as from the front. In other words, start making disciples among key influencers concurrent with the challenge to multiply from the pulpit. The culture of a church is not changed solely from the pulpit. Exhortation answers the what and why questions. Training and coaching answer the how question.
Don't form new, non-multiplying small groups. Additionally, consider renaming new or existing small groups to Disciple Making Teams (DMT). This gives a fresh vision and purpose to the groups.