It’s one of those days when it feels like God just reached down and touched you. Your pastor has informed you that you are being given responsibility over the small group ministry in your church. Woohoo!
Oh wait, you know very little about small groups, and you just said “yes?”
What do you do now?
First, relax and take a deep breath. You’re in the right place. Members of the Small Group Network are going to be your best friends for many years to come. There are people in the Network that have been small group ministry directors for <gasp> decades. They’ve forgotten more about group life than most people ever knew. They’ve read every book on the subject. They’re even able to share the biblical foundations for groups. You’ll get to talk to them.
Second, find a Small Group Network huddle near you and join it. A nearby huddle is where local small group point people come together to share, learn and encourage. Don’t worry, they’re not all more knowledgeable than you. In fact, some are in the same place in their knowledge of groups ministry. The beauty of a huddle is you’ll learn together.
(By the way, if there’s no nearby huddle it’s God’s way of telling you to start one. It’s easy and requires no experience. We’ll show you how.)
So, once you’re connected to a huddle, here are seven tips for getting the most out of it:
- Be transparent. Don’t hide your lack of experience from fellow members. That would be like standing on top of the roof of your house during a flood, the entire rest of the house is underwater, and rescue boats keep coming by asking if you need help. Responding with “Nope, I’m good. I have it all handled” will cause all of your potential help to move on without lending a hand.
- Ask lots of questions. Opinions are like noses – everyone has one and is generally willing to put it in your business. In this case, that’s good. Don’t know where to start? Ask honestly, “I’m totally new at this. Where do I start?” You’ll get plenty of great direction from those that have been where you are now, and you’ll soon be on your way.
- Take notes. Silly thing that I’ve noticed about many people: they get excellent advice, nodding and smiling and asking follow-on questions, and they don’t write a single point down. When you’re in the midst of people who know more than you do on the subject, don’t just soak up every word; write it down. Experts on memory will confirm what you’re afraid to admit – you’ll forget most of what you failed to write down.
- Later, repeat back what you’ve learned to check with others. “Here’s what I’ve heard you should do in this situation. What do you think? Have you done that? How did it turn out?”
- Do some fact checking. Not all of the advice you get will be sound. Some will just be what the other person thinks, and not what they know. How can you tell the difference? Ask, “How did that work out?” Probe for some metric that supports the usefulness of the direction you just got. Be respectful, but follow the sound advice, “Trust everyone, but validate everything.”
- Be willing to try a few things. Make sure you privately set the expectations of leadership above you that you’re going to test a few ideas to see what works best in your church. This will keep them from expecting you to score a goal with everything you try.
- Pay attention to what works and what didn’t. Then share that knowledge with other members of your huddle. It’s possible that something that worked in your church will be just what someone else needs for a breakthrough. And, it’s also possible that what didn’t work for you might have worked in another church because it was done differently. It’s good to know the difference. In another century a business giant once said, “I know I’m wasting half of my budget. I just don’t know which half.” Know “which half” each of your ideas fall into.
The Small Group Network exists because one man was in your shoes once, wondering how to do small groups. He called people who were in the ministry in other churches, he got great advice and mentoring, and today he’s one of the best-known small group pastors and the founder of the Small Group Network. Follow in Steve Gladen’s footsteps and do what he did. You’ll discover what we have all learned – we’re better together!