Multi-site Church Groups Check-up

The Executive Pastor of a large multi-site church trying to revitalize their “life group ministry” once asked me what needed to happen in order for them to do groups well. I summarized the conversation thinking some insights might help you with where you’re at now.

  1. Transition “groups” from a ministry area to the way all ministries express themselves. Relationships that put Christ at the center are the basic building blocks of the Body of Christ and need to be continually and creatively communicated throughout ministry areas for every generation. Emphasize “community” and “relationships.” Build a community culture. Groups is the strategy.
  2. Don’t do a “push” for groups only once or twice a year. Offer a series every season and do it with excellence, equipping everyone to form groups inside and outside the boundaries of your campuses. This will help your people see groups as being a part of your culture versus a sermon series.
    • Emphasis and focus on groups have gotten diffused because you have many other things competing for attention at the same time (particularly in September and January).
    • Creative media and Communications have been very limited in how you have been able to support and message groups. The message and strategy has been lost amidst the noise of all the other initiatives being announced at the same time.
    • In your communications, err toward equipping the saints for the work of the ministry by challenging members to ‘start’ vs. ‘join’ a group and to think of those whom God has already put in their lives (be missional where you’re at).
  3. Challenge each ministry area to set goals utilizing healthy Christ-centered relationships as a key indicator of health. Define measurables for biblical community, such as engagement level in practicing spiritual disciplines with other believers, and refresh metrics each season.
  4. Determine how to measure the growth of relationships with spiritual focus and celebrate them in every ministry area. Communicate that group-life is the barometer of relational health at the campus level and it is the shared responsibility of all pastoral staff; not just those with “groups” as part of their staff role title. Spiritual friendships is a primary motivator and outcome of disciple-making, which is what we are called to do together as God’s people.
  5. Implement a reliable, easy-to-use tool for tracking groups and helping people find a group. Your church database should be accessible to vetted volunteer leaders and be user-friendly. Otherwise, it will not be utilized resulting in more unusable data and rendering your front-end list of open groups ineffective. Coordinate sufficient administrative support for maintaining group information, responding to connection inquiries, etc. Focus on people development over accuracy of data.
  6. Ensure there is a primary community champion with authority that’s accountable at the senior level for groups within every ministry area at each campus. Empower them to appoint and invest consistently into high-capacity volunteer leaders (Community Leaders / Coaches) who work with group leaders at each campus.
  7. Align weekend messaging with community-building initiatives as much as possible. Make sure your platform communicators and community champions are working with each other in the creative planning of weekend programming and even aspects of sermon planning. All that’s needed to create a stellar homegrown campaign is an outline for a sermon series in advance and the involvement of the Lead Pastor in communicating it on video. Checkout open.life.church for examples.

The implementation of any of these insights will bring improvement, but what makes all the difference is the dedicated buy-in and extreme ownership of the Lead Pastor. If you’re not there yet, pray and take steps forward with the ones you think are most achievable for you right now. Progress observed will inspire additional steps forward.

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