As humans, we are designed to crave intimacy and feel connected with those around us. According to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, surrounding ourselves with people who support, value, and love us creates stronger internal confidence in everything we do. As a church, we have a unique opportunity to create this confidence in our members. One way we do this is by establishing dynamic church small groups that pour into the lives of others.
By creating small groups that are focused on encouraging one another and pointing each other to Christ, you can build up a group of confident, Jesus-loving people. How you build up these groups of Christ warriors is important, however. Through our research, we’ve narrowed it down to nine ways to build thriving church small groups. Our prayer is that these church small group ideas create groups filled with people who love Jesus and encourage one another to spread the Good News!
9 Ways to Build Thriving Church Small Groups
1. Be Consistent
Consistency is the key to any thriving small group. Encourage members in your church small group to make the group a priority. Encouraging consistency allows your small groups to go deeper and continue running the race, rather than stopping halfway through the race to make sure everyone is running at the same speed.
2. Show Flexibility
With consistency also needs to come flexibility. Yes, consistency is important, however, flexibility also allows members in your small group to experience the grace they need in certain seasons. If someone in your small group hasn’t shown up lately, give them a call. Find out what’s going on rather than guilt trip them into coming back. Perhaps someone has been sick in their house or perhaps they have been out of town. Talking with the group members rather than getting frustrated is the easiest way to be flexible and grow in grace.
3. Be Authentic
There is a lot of talk of Millenials wanting authenticity in the groups they surround themselves with, but being authentic doesn’t just attract a certain age group. Authenticity in any group of people brings people closer. It’s important for people to hear the ups and downs of someone’s journey because it allows others to know hardships are common. According to Dr. Dianne Grande, once people start to understand they are not alone in experiencing hardships, freedom comes in and makes people feel more comfortable. Encourage your church small groups to be vulnerable and share the easy and hard parts of life. Once groups start being authentic with each other, you’ll begin to notice a positive shift in the way your church operates.
4. Serve Together
Serving together brings people closer because it allows your church small groups to get to know one another on a different level. Sitting in a group once a week is great, but going out and creating a memory together creates greater intimacy. Here is a list of ways you can encourage your small groups to serve together.
- Volunteer at the next church event
- Sign up to work in the church nursery
- Make meals to take to families with new babies or foster kids
- Serve families who are sick
- Host a game night for local college students
- Serve on the welcoming committee together
Whatever capacity a small group decides to serve will make an impact not only in your church but also with each other!
5. Welcome Others
It’s important to consider all the ins and outs of how to welcome newcomers to any small group. If a small group is held at someone’s home, a newcomer might feel intimidated because it’s not a neutral space. Try hosting your small groups at a local coffee shop or bookstore. Creating space at your church also provides a neutral location for newcomers to freely join without the anxiety of making sure they are ringing the right doorbell.
One way to keep track of where all groups meet and how to connect people to these groups is through your church website. Clover Sites integrates with Elexio, which make it easy for you to spread the word about your small groups, while at the same time managing who meets where and when.
Here are two examples of churches using the small groups integration to do this well:
6. Grow Strategically
The growth of a small group is important to consider. Smaller groups can make people feel awkward, while at the same time newcomers can get lost in large groups of people. Finding the balance between the two can be tricky, but definitely not impossible. If you find that your small groups have stopped growing, take a look at the numbers. If the groups are smaller, try merging two groups together. If they are larger, try splitting up into smaller groups. Once you start to see the size of a small group that works for your church, you’ll begin to notice the authenticity and intentionality growing throughout each group.
7. Lead Well
As with any ministry in your church, thriving church small groups need to have good leadership. Each leader in a small group needs to have a heart that wants people to love Jesus more and is filled with grace for any situation that could arise in a small group. If you have a leader who is constantly sarcastic and makes jokes all the time, you’ll notice a decrease in the number of attendees. However, leading a group with a heart full of grace will attract people into small groups.
8. Respect Time
The time you set for your church small groups needs to be respectful of all members attending that small group. Also, know that you can’t please everyone. In small groups where people do not have kids, it might go a little longer. In groups where people have smaller kids that have set meal times with set bedtimes, creating shorter meetings might be more strategic. Encourage each leader to be cognizant of the group dynamic and be willing to change if the group dynamic changes.
9. Choose the Right Content
Some groups like to discuss the sermon of that day and some groups like to go rogue and do their own Bible study. No matter the content your small groups decide on, make sure the leaders are taking polls of their small group members and leading them in the way the group wants to be led. If you have a large number of church small groups, try adding a section on your church website for small groups entitled “Curriculum.” Add all Bible study ideas that your church staff loves so that it’s easy for a small group leader to access these ideas.
If you have a church management system such as Elexio, you can also keep track of what studies each group is doing so you can make sure they have all the tools and resources they need to be successful.