Starting a Small Group Ministry

Starting a small group ministry will move your church members beyond “doing church” to “being the church.” And when followers of Jesus are being the church, those not-yet-followers of Christ can’t help but notice (Acts 2:47).

There are six important steps to starting a healthy small group ministry.

  1. Determine what you want your groups to accomplish so you can conclude what kinds of groups will make up your Small Group Ministry.

    In Bill Donahue’s book, “Leading Life-Changing Small Groups” he points out five kinds of Small Groups. I have added the sixth group type to this list.

    1. Disciples-making groups, for believers wanting to develop spiritual disciplines and go deep.
    2. Community Groups, for believers and non-believers, persons who want to build in-depth relationships with others.
    3. Service Groups, for believers and non-believers who are serving alongside one another in ministry. For instance, ushers, musical teams, leadership teams, etc…
    4. Seeker Groups, groups led by a couple of believers but for non-believers. Groups that spend much time dealing with the issues non-believers are considering before coming to Christ.
    5. Support Groups, groups for believers and non-believers, groups that support attendees through personal difficulties.
    6. Healing Groups, groups for believers and non-believers who come alongside one another to recognize and be released from the lies that Satan has imprinted on their hearts.

    Once a church determines what kind/kinds of groups they need to begin with they will know what curriculum to purchase, how to train leaders, and who to recruit for small group leadership. 

  2. Craft a purpose statement.

Every aspect of the ministry will be driven by a compelling purpose statement. About purpose statements:

    1. It must get to the core of your small group ministry. Be certain the purpose statement doesn’t try to say too much.
    2. It must be short enough to be easily memorized and remembered. You’ll want every person on the Small Group team to be able to voice this statement without hesitation so make it short and sweet.
    3. It should be in the vernacular of your church and/or culture.
    4. It should compliment the purpose statement of your church.
  3. Attain approval from the influencing church leadership.

    Once the key leader in your church has a passion for this ministry, ask your pastor if you can join he and the key leadership team of the church to share what God is asking you to do. Be sure to share the following information with them.

    1. How this ministry fits into the purposes or vision of the church.
    2. Your vision for the ministry.
    3. Why you believe this ministry is important for this church.
    4. The implementation plan you will use to get this ministry up and running.
    5. Answer any questions they may have realizing that there will be many, many questions yet unanswered.

    Once these key leaders are on board you’re now ready to go public with this ministry.

  4. Senior pastor casts a vision for small group ministry churchwide.

    This is best accomplished when the pastor does a series of sermons on Christian community. Some possible passages for consideration are Acts 2:42-47, 1 Cor. 12–14, Hebrews 10:24-25, 2 Timothy 2:2, James 5:16, John 17:9-11. The pastor should talk about the new ministry that is going to begin soon, explain how biblical principles are at the heart of this ministry, what the positive outcomes are for attendees, and how people will be able to get involved in small groups. It will be important for the pastor to tell the church what piece of the puzzle this ministry will play in church life, for them to be praying for the ministry, and how many months down the road it will be until they can join a group.

  5. Enlist and lead generation 1 … the turbo group. (This step should take place as Step 4 is in process.)

A turbo group is made up of 10 or so people who will become your first small group leaders. Lead their group. Let them see what an effective group leader does. They will do what they have seen done, so be the model small group leader for them. This group should stay together no less than six months. Go to to see archived articles on how to be an effective small group leader.

  6. Set the people in your turbo group free to start a group of their own.

    Once you are confident that your turbo group leaders are ready to lead a group of their own, help them recruit group members and be there for them as they begin their journey as small group leaders.

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