Are you struggling to get small groups working in your church? Are they just not getting the traction you want them to get? Are you frustrated people won’t join or attend regularly?

Small groups are a great way to help people connect to the church and follow Jesus. They provide context for relationships, pastoral care, and Bible Study.

But they don’t always work.

Here are four reasons small groups might not be working in your church.

#1 – The ministry menu is already too crowded.

Most churches compete for the attention of their members.

Some churches give men the option of participating in a 6am Men’s Bible Study every other Friday at a local breakfast spot or joining a nightly small group with their wives. Be honest…which of those is easier?

Some churches organize 5 women’s ministry events throughout the year, with various committees and planning teams, then also ask them to prioritize small groups throughout the week. How many people have that much time?

Some churches ask people to devote 2, 3, or 4 nights a week to various church meetings and activities and wonder why small groups can’t get traction.

I’m not dogging on activities and ministries, but I am asking a priority question.

  • Do you want men in your church involved in small groups or coming to a random dinner or church work day?
  • Do you want teenagers in your church involved in a consistent small group or do you want to busy them up with events and activities?
  • Do you want volunteers in your church to serve at a bunch of one-off programs and ministries or do you want them showing up consistently with the same group of people?

The question is one of competition. Not in that very moment or on that particular Sunday night. But as to how many things people can juggle. It’s tempting to think, “This program doesn’t really compete with anything and the building isn’t even being used at that time.”

But every time you add something, it requires thought, planning, and communication. Your congregation feels all of that.

That’s why we believe the key to growth in your church might not be something you start, but something you stop.

If you took an honest look at your ministry menu and cancelled things that were no longer effective, then redirected that energy to the things that lead to healthy growth, good things will happen.

Use our Ministry Evaluation Form (available as a part of Church Fuel's Resource Library) to have an honest conversation about how well a program or ministry is really working.

#2 – The senior pastor isn’t personally bought in.

I’m convinced one of the reasons groups didn’t work well in our church plant is because I wasn’t involved in one of them.

I was asking people to do something I wasn’t doing.

That’s just bad leadership.

I had all kinds of excuses like being too busy, conflict of interest, and not finding the right people.

But it was wrong and dumb.

I erroneously insulated myself from people in the church.

As I’ve worked with other churches over the last years, I’ve seen it over and over again. Whether it’s groups or giving or mission trips or justice or inviting…the church follows the leaders.

The congregation notices what is omitted.

The congregation picks up on the priorities.

One of the most effective announcements for small groups are those “by the way” stories the pastor works into the sermon. When you talk about your group, even in passing, it reinforces to the congregation that it’s important.

#3 – You aren’t willing to invest financially.

This isn’t just a groups thing; it’s much bigger than that.

One of the big reasons any program or ministry doesn’t work is a lack of funding.

If you say student ministry is important, but the fall festival budget is bigger and you ask kids to do ridiculous fundraisers, then student ministry isn’t important.

If you say groups are important, but there’s a miniscule line-item in the budget, then groups aren’t important.

Your budget illustrates your priorities as a church.

For groups to work, you need to adequately fund the groups budget. And it’s not about the dollar amount; it’s about prioritizing and percentages.

What do you need a groups budget for?

  1. Curriculum. There is a ton of free stuff on the Internet, but you do get what you pay for. Find something great that works with your budget. It’s probably not the free option.
  2. Kickoff events. When you have training meetings or kickoff events in the evening, you should have food and childcare. Make it easier and enjoyable for people to participate.
  3. Leader training. Get your leaders a Church Fuel subscription that includes Team Training or find other ways to pour into them. These are the people leading your groups and they need encouragement and resources.

Speaking of leaders…

#4 – You don’t focus on developing great leaders.

The quality of your groups ministry depends on your intentional process for developing leaders.

Notice I didn’t say it was due to how many leaders you have.

You can’t control that right now.

There is not a secret stash of great leaders being horded by a rogue ministry leader. You have the leaders you have.

A pastor with a growth mindset does not complain about a lack of leaders. Instead, work on your leadership development process. Get ready for God to bring you people. Start looking for people to put for the process.

Whether your church has 1, 10, 100, or 1,000 leaders, leadership development is tough and it requires your focus. But it’s the secret sauce for a strong groups ministry.

Take a Next Step

One thing we’ve noticed about leaders in the church is they typically crave training. Leaders love opportunities to get better and develop their skills. Yet too many churches don’t provide any leadership training to their people.

This resource will help you:

  • Learn how to lead yourself because it starts with you!
  • Lead others so your church can thrive on strong leadership for decades
  • Lead projects so nothing or no one gets lost in translation

With Team Training through Church Fuel, you can share the videos with your staff, elders, and leaders and they can watch on their own schedule.