I don’t know. I was hoping you can tell me. Coming from Saddleback HSM where small groups was a set part of the culture in the student ministry where I got to mess around with, try new things, and experiment a little bit because they already had a solid structure for small groups and a solid system for how they managed and trained volunteers. If you want to know how to run an effective small groups ministry well, go see what they do.

Now in my new position, things are rolling and are going great, but there is no small group structure at all. they have some small groups that meet, but they will be the first to tell you that they are just kind of random and no real direction. I love the fat that even there is no real structure, there are still volunteers and students who see the importance of meeting in a small group together. 

So what do you do to build a small group structure for when there is none? I’m not sure, but I’m hoping my time running the small group ministry for Saddleback HSM can help me. I just met with one of my staff members and a volunteer who has begun a small part in trying to organize what small groups we have going on now. We talked about the following things to help launch our program:

It’s going to take time: The fall is already here. We are going to move forward with things already planned because there is no way to do an overhaul in time. But we can work with what we have now so next year when we focus on small groups specifically and have time to develop what we want, the current leaders will be veteran and will be able to set the tone. Building a healthy small groups structure will take time. Lots of time. Be patient and be consistant.

We set goals: If there are no goals you cannot measure if you are growing or not. What do you want to see in your small groups ministry? What are the steps you need to take to make sure you reach those goals? Make a list and start chipping away at the practical steps. If you want more volunteers, turn into a college football recruiter and seek after people. If you want to help leaders know how to lead an effective discussion, help them understand how to do so. Our goal for this year is to effectively train and care for the leaders we have now. Meaning, we want to set clear expectations, set curriculum, and have training and meetings to care for them.

Expectations of leaders: Expectations are huge. If they are a leader, do they need to be both a small group leader and be at services with you when you meet? Can you do one or the other? Are meetings mandatory? If there are clear expectations leaders will know what they are signing up for and what it is they are actually supposed to be doing when they are there (There is a really good 5 Minute Youth Minsitry video here on the site with Doug Fields and Mark Mattlock on volunteers).

Leader training: Leading a small group is more than just getting together. Sometimes most leaders think they need to be able to preach and teach for 30 minutes in a group. They get that at services. Small groups are about facilitating discussion and allowing students to answer good questions. Not everyone knows how to lead a small group. So we need to train them on how that happens. 

Systems to support groups: If a new student wants to sign up for a small group, how are they followed up with? How does someone get info about the group? How do you know what groups are available and when/where they meet? Thinking through this on the front end will help you do it effectively when it grows. 

I love trying to start things from scratch. I love the challenge. This will be a fun and long process and I’m excited to see how God will move. I believe small groups is where it is at and how students will grow an established faith where they can be real, authentic and honest with things happening in their faith and life.