How Do Groups Fit into the Overall Strategy of Your Church?

One of the biggest takeaways from the research behind our book Transformational Groups is the need for churches to be more clear and focused in their group strategy. Church leaders must know how their groups (classes, Bible fellowships, etc.) fit into their overall discipleship strategy/process, and many don’t. They simply have groups. Once leaders know how groups fit into their overall church discipleship plan, they must harmonize their group leaders, training, and content with the overall discipleship plan. We will flesh this out more in the book, but here are some early thoughts for churches.

Know the purpose of your groups.

According to the research, the most effective groups were the most focused groups. People who attend groups in churches that understand the primary purpose of their groups reported a higher level of group effectiveness than those who attend groups in churches with a plethora of purposes. Meaning the groups that are crystal clear as to why they meet and how they fit into the overall life of the church are more effective. Groups that gather with an attempt to be everything don’t accomplish much of anything.

In other words, if a group attempts to constantly invite unbelievers to the group while simultaneously teaching the Bible in depth, hoping to connect believers together in deep relationship, and live on mission together in the community–according to the research the lack of focus is a detriment. Much better is to identify the chief purpose (or two purposes) the groups are gathered together to accomplish, and to focus energy and attention in that direction.

So as you think about your groups, it may be helpful to force rank the list below. In light of your overall church discipleship plan, what are the most important purposes for your groups?

  • Formation/ Study (primary goal is teaching and study)
  • Connection (primary goal is connecting believers in biblical community)
  • Mission (primary goal is the group serving on mission together)
  • Invitational (primary goal is inviting non-believers to the group)

What should the purpose of your groups be? It depends on your overall discipleship strategy. For example, if your weekend worship teaching is 40-45 minutes of biblical exposition, your groups may not need to be a duplication of that. You may decide that your groups should carry a different primary purpose. Of course, you would want the groups to study the Scriptures together, but the intended purpose may be connection and community around those studies. On the other hand, some churches really need the groups to carry the burden of formation and study because the weekend teaching isn’t designed to accomplish that in the life of believers.

Match leaders with the purpose of your groups.

For groups to be the most powerful, there must be harmony between the purpose of the groups and the leaders who lead the groups. The leaders should be recruited and trained based on the purpose of the groups. If a church decides the primary purpose of a group is study, then the church should recruit teachers. If a church decides the primary purpose is biblical community, the church should recruit leaders to shepherd and facilitate. If a church decides it is mission, the church should train their leaders to think like missionaries.

Frustration and friction exists if there isn’t a match. For example, if a church desires the groups to connect people together but a leader is recruited who wants to lead a group so he can lecture for 52 minutes every week, the group will lack focus and fail to deliver on the reason the group exists in light of the overall church discipleship process.

There are other very important issues (launching new groups, communicating with groups, moving new people to groups, etc), but church leaders must first understand how groups fit into the overall discipleship strategy for their church.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
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3 Reasons Groups MUST Be a Big Deal

While one person can make a significant impact on each of us, we tend to be much more influenced by groups of people. Here is a fascinating example: The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona has often faced a crisis as people can steal petrified wood at an alarming rate. Some researchers tested what message would motivate people to respect the forest and not steal wood. Three different tests were conducted:

  • Test 1: No sign posted.
  • Test 2: A posted sign with a picture of one personpicking up petrified wood with encouragement not to take wood.
  • Test 3: A posted sign with a picture of three people picking up petrified wood with encouragement not to take wood.

So what were the results?

When there was no sign posted, people stole 2.9% of the wood. When there was a sign showing only one person taking the wood, 1.9% of the wood was taken. When there was a sign showing several people taking wood, 7.9% of the wood was taken. Clearly people were much more willing to follow the lead of a crowd than a single person. * A group can impact people much more than one person can.

The people in your church will be much more influenced by a group of people than they will be by one person, by even one pastor. While a pastor can make a significant impact on a person’s life, the impact of a group is much more sustainable and reproducible.

Here are three reasons groups must be a big deal at your church this fall. (I am using the term groups, but the same applies to Sunday School classes, Bible fellowships, etc.)

1. A group provides encouragement that no one person will ever be able to provide.

We are all limited in the number of relationships we can have. Thus, a church that does not value groups acts as if they foolishly believe that a pastor/leader can deeply relate to a lot of people. Without groups, ministry leaders can run feverishly in futile attempts to relate deeply to lots of people.

2. A group illustrates the faith in multiple ways.

One person can provide an incredible example of faith and godliness, but it is one example. A group of people provides multiple expressions and illustrations of how the Christian faith is expressed in different spheres of life.

3. A group of believers provides a counter culture.

People in your church are going to be impacted by some group of people. The wisdom writer wrote, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20). The groups of people we surround ourselves with either help or harm us. By offering and emphasizing groups, churches offer an opportunity to walk with the wise. If people don’t walk with the wise, they will be a companion of fools and suffer harm.

Here is my observation: A church that does not emphasize groups tends to put way too much burden on a weekend worship service and too little trust in the power of Christian community.

* The research is cited in the book “Social Psychology and Evaluation,” page 277.

> Read more from Eric.


Learn more about the importance of groups in the big picture of Discipleship at your church.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Discipleship >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.