Most leaders of small group ministries have something in common: they believe their ministry will grow if it’s more greatly emphasized by their church. You know the kind of promotion I’m talking about: colourful banners, live testimonials, and the granddaddy of them all—sermon shout-outs! The only thing leaders of small group ministries dream of more than a small group plug from the preacher is an inbox filled with pleas from people who feel prompted to lead a small group.
How much of a difference does promotion make?
This dream should be met with a serious question—how much of a difference does an emphasis on small group ministry actually make? More publicity seems to work in most situations—event promotions, volunteer needs, and capital campaigns come to mind—so how much growth can be expected when more stage time is given to small groups?
The shocking answer is zero. Jim Egli and Dwight Marable, authors of Small Groups, Big Impact, report there is no significant causal relationship between how much a church emphasizes small groups and the growth of the church’s small group system.
Surprised? I was too.
Walking the Walk
But it’s not as shocking when we consider why promotion doesn’t make a difference. The reason why small groups exist is to provide structures for people to share life together and to grow. Their mission is (or should be) discipleship. Every factor that determines whether groups are healthy and growing relates to what groups are actually doing, not what church leaders may be saying.
Long-term group success is more about walking the small group walk than it is talking the small group talk.Jim Egli and Dwight Marable
Information about your small group ministry is still important — people need to understand the purpose behind groups and learn how they can get involved. But emphasizing this ministry through various promotional efforts is a poor strategy for helping it grow.
The best way to nurture small groups is by helping leaders focus on the most critical elements of their group and then supporting them along the way. As small groups “walk the walk” you’ll find there’s little need to initiate more talk.
Would you like to discover the critical blocking blocks of a healthy small group ministry? MB Seminary has training that’s focused on this very topic. You can browse through our current training options or take 3-minutes to let us know how a training expert can resource you and your church.
[Keith Reed is the Director of MinistryLift for MB Seminary.