10 Principles for Healthy Small Group Growth

I believe in small groups, whether they are called “Sunday School,” “home groups,” “cell groups,” or whatever name a church may give them. Most churches have some type of group, but my experience is that most churches also don’t maximize the benefits of those groups. Here are some principles to consider if you want your church’s small groups to grow:

  1. Small group matters. Significantly. They are the place where relationships are built, expectations are cast, involvement is encouraged, and teaching is central – all elements that are critical to effective assimilation.
  2. The small group that doesn’t know its purpose will wander in direction. Every small group must have a recognized, stated, reinforced, and lived out purpose. Many don’t, though, and the group doesn’t maximize its potential.
  3. The leader is the most important person in the room. The right leader can cast vision, create unity, and provide direction. In fact, I can think of no problem in a small group that the right leader can’t address. 
  4. Strong leaders are good facilitators and teachers. They know how to lead discussion. They teach well. They keep the group involved. Group members want to come because they know they’ll learn something.
  5. Bad leaders weaken the group. That’s not a surprise. What is a surprise is how many churches leave bad leaders in place. The small group is too important to allow boring, disorganized, unfaithful leaders to remain in that position.
  6. Everybody in the group needs a role. The possibilities are numerous. Assistant leader. Prayer leader. Fellowship leader. Greeter. Record keeper. Coffee maker. Follow up leader. Pastoral care leader. When everyone has a role, everyone knows he or she is needed.
  7. A lack of space limits growth. It’s an old church growth principle, but it’s still accurate: if the meeting place is perceived to be full, the growth of the group will plateau. The healthiest groups always have physical space for more people.
  8. Groups naturally default into an inward focus. It happens so naturally that most groups don’t recognize it. The group loves being together. They’re comfortable knowing each other well. Everyone’s relaxed – and nobody’s thinking about inviting others.
  9. One goal of the group must be to multiply itself. From the leader to the newest member, every one must be working toward sending members out to start a new group. If reproduction is not in the DNA, the group will move in the wrong direction.
  10. Groups need to discuss every week, “Who’s not here that we want here?” The answer should include regulars who aren’t present and unchurched people the group members are trying to reach. If the group can’t quickly create the latter list, they’re probably inwardly focused.

What other principles would you add?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.