10 Traits of a Healthy Small Group Ministry

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Q: Do you run your small group ministry like a company or a family?

I am currently working on plans to grow and improve the administration side of our small group ministry. While doing research, I discovered the following quote:

“Your church and your ministry should be run like a family, not a corporation, government, or school.”

Steve Gladen in Planning Small Groups With Purpose

It sounds good. But what does it really mean for a small group ministry to be run like a family?

While thinking about the question, an accident occurred while I was making dinner that provided me a clue.

The Spaghetti Sauce Incident

Last Sunday I was making a spaghetti dinner for my wife Kim and me. We were hungry and looked forward to eating soon.

Once the spaghetti sauce was finished, I moved it off the stove. But that’s as far as it moved before it wound up on the floor.

Yes, the cast iron pot hit the floor with a loud noise and 3 quarts (2.8 liters) of spaghetti sauce shot across the kitchen floor!

There were a number of ways my wife could have reacted:

  • Call me clumsy (or worse)
  • Tell me all the things I did wrong
  • Get mad at me for wasting food and delaying dinner

She didn’t react in any of those ways.  How did she respond?

  • She insisted on cleaning up the large mess so I didn’t have to
  • She reminded me of a time when she did the same thing with a pot of chili when it somehow splattered all the way up to the ceiling

I felt bad when I messed up our dinner plans.  But through Kim’s response, I was able to get back to making dinner in a short time, while feeling great about what I was doing and who I married.

Kim and I have been married for over 35 years. I love her more now than ever. Her response to the spaghetti sauce incident is just another demonstration that we are a healthy family.

If we want a healthy small group ministry that is run like a family, then we need to consider what a healthy family looks like.

10 Traits of a Healthy Family (or Small Group Ministry)

The following list contains ten traits that typically belong to healthy families. I believe they also apply to healthy small group ministries.

  1. Commitment to the family (or ministry)
  2. Trusts and respects each other
  3. Open and honest communication (including effective listening)
  4. Puts the others’ needs ahead of their own
  5. Encourages each other
  6. Conflicts resolved quickly and appropriately
  7. Loves God
  8. Spends quality time together
  9. Operates with a minimal set of rules and avoids micro-managing
  10. Looks for ways to always improve

It’s Servant Leadership

Take another look at the list of healthy traits. They are familiar. I’ve come to the conclusion that running a small group ministry like a family requires us to perform as servant leaders.

Families, as well as small group ministries, need to have both a task focus and a relationship focus. But it is easy to get so focused on working the day-to-day tasks that we lose our passion for helping the people we lead and those we need to reach through our ministry.

I am flipping my organizational chart upside down. The primary focus for me and the other leaders will be to support and care for those we lead as they carry out their responsibilities. To do that involves the traits of a healthy family. Jesus provided the perfect example.

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant… just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:26, 28 (NIV)

I don’t know if servant leadership is what Steve Gladen had in mind when he wrote about the small group ministry needing to operate like a family. But it is going to make me and my small group ministry better.

What are you doing to run your small group like a family? What do you need to change?