In The Beginning…

“I would like to apply for the position of Director of Small Groups,” she said.

“Do you have any experience? Do you understand how to lead this type of ministry?” he asked.

“What’s to know? You gather a few people together and you lead a meeting, right?” she said.

Small Groups and the Church

Somehow you landed the job. It must be that new suit you were sporting. Regardless of how it materialized, you are the Director of Small Groups. You must make it happen. You may be starting from scratch or perhaps you are assigned the task of breathing new life in the existing ministry. Either way, you are in for a great adventure; one with lots of ups and downs and many stops in between.

Gain the Support of the Senior Pastor

If you are starting from the beginning or growing the current ministry, he or she must on board. They need to be willing to be a member of a group. They don’t need to lead, but they must participate to lend credibility and validity. Preaching about the importance of belonging to a group would be most helpful.

Prayer Support Group

Next, gather a number of faithful prayer warriors. Make their focus to pray for this ministry. This could be your first small group. Select a leader from among those you chose and funnel your prayer requests and/or praises through this leader. Be certain this group understands that confidentiality is crucial in this group and every other group created. Every Small Group must be a safe place.

Build Your Team

Chose from friends and trusted individuals you would enjoy spending time with. You will be ‘in the trenches’ with these people, as Satan will not want you to succeed. You are called to mentor them and share your dreams and your vision for groups. You need to know they have your back and they are prayer warriors themselves. When you find a good book with valuable insight which seems to fit your vision, give each member of your team a copy and then review together. You will be amazed and pleased with the varying insight you will glean from these fresh new minds.

Embrace Your Church’s Mission Statement

Gather your team and your prayer support group together and talk about your churches’ mission. Memorize the Mission Statement and then analyze your personal vision for groups. Do the two come together or is there a disconnect? Fix that right away. Your Small Group mission must coincide with the mission of the church. If you are starting from the beginning or picking up where someone else left off, these must align or you are not going to grow.

For example, the mission Statement at my church is: “To Be and To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ”. When I stood this up alongside our small group system it worked, but not as smooth as it should. There weren’t enough entry points into groups, it was too difficult to navigate and there was no clear direction. We will thoroughly examine this topic in the future.

Check with the Experts

One of the most valuable things I learned over the years as Small Group Director is “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” Many types of material are available: books, podcasts, webinars, and blogs. Don’t try to do it yourself. Someone with much more expertise and experience has put time and energy into developing Small Group Ministry. Why would I ever want to start from scratch?

Take advantage of the experience your team brings to the table. You hand-picked them for a reason. They will make you look good and be your loudest cheerleaders along the way. Treat them well, respect their time, and listen to the wisdom they will bring. Brag them up to your superiors and give them the recognition they deserve. Pray for them often.


Here are some resources I recommend. I often refer back to these for inspiration and encouragement:

Building a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry: A Strategic Guide for Leading Group Life in Your Church by Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson

Small Groups for the Rest of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes by Chris Surratt

The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups by Joseph R. Myers

This book, in particular, got me headed in a new direction with small groups. Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups by Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas


by Judy Webb, Small Group Ministry Contributor / Director of Small Groups, Upper Arlington Lutheran Church

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