Mark Howell: 5 Serious Small Group Ministry Misalignment Signals

By Mark Howell, Pastors.com On March 7, 2014

Mark Howell

Mark Howell.

Does your strategic dashboard light up with flashing warning signals and even alarm bells when you run certain diagnostics?  Or do you find yourself reporting that "everything is fine" even when you find yourself uneasy about what's really happening?

I've written about the top 1o signs your small group ministry needs a reboot and a 5 step plan for rebooting your small group ministry, but it occurred to me that you might not necessarily recognize several key misalignment signals.

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What am I calling a misalignment signal?  Why am using that term?  Pretty simple really.  It is very common to find myself mid-conversation with a pastor and suddenly discover that they've chosen a strategy that just isn't the right one given their results.  They may hope things will work out, but the signals their system is giving off clearly indicate that something is very wrong.  See also, 5 GroupLife Dots You May Not Be Connecting.

Here are 5 serious misalignment signals:

  1. Your senior pastor is ineffective at making the HOST ask and the response is always less than you hope.  It has been my observation that a well-executed HOST ask should generate a response from 5 to 10% of your average adult attendance (Example: if you average 500 adults in your weekend services, a well-executed ask will generate a response of 25 to 50 host sign-ups).  If you hope to grow your small group ministry using the church-wide campaign strategy, this is an extremely dangerous misalignment signal.  See also, How to Make the HOST Ask: The 2012 Version.
  2. Rows and circles are lumped in the same category.  If your announcements, bulletin, and website content all give the impression that small groups (circles) and Sunday school classes (rows) offer the same benefits, an alarm bell ought to be loudly clanging in your head.  Without a doubt, there are small groups where authentic community doesn't happen and there are Sunday school classes that offer true community and lots of life-change happens.  But...if you're promoting all programs equally and they aren't all producing what you know people need in order to grow in Christ, this is a very important misalignment signal.  See also, True Community? Or a Smaller Version of the Weekend Service?
  3. Every small group leader has an apprentice but few new groups birth.  This is a serious issue if the apprentice strategy is your primary strategy for launching new groups.  If fewer than 50% of your groups birth every year you may actually be going backwards in terms of the percentage connected.  See also, How Important Is It to Have an Apprentice?
  4. You're only identifying enough new leaders to replace those who move away or "take a break."  Treading water is a clear sign of misalignment.  Building a thriving small group ministry will almost always require growing your total number of groups by 10 to 20% every year.  Very difficult to do without an aggressive strategy to add new leaders.  See also, My Top 3 Ninja Ideas for Recruiting New Leaders and Is An Artificial Barrier Limiting Your Small Group Ministry?
  5. Your minimum involvement expectations are out of step with the pace of life.  In most cases the average adult will struggle to commit to even one step beyond attending a weekend service.  Many churches promote the expectation that they want to challenge their congregation to attend a service, connect to a group, and serve in a ministry.  Clearly, based on actual participation, that is an aggressive goal and expectation.  If legacy expectations from another era are still in existence in your culture, you need to adjust expectations (i.e., if you still expect attendance at a mid-week service, you are almost always out of step with the pace of life).  See also,Determining the Minimum and the Recommended Dose.

 

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