- Mark Howell
How honest are you about your own small group ministry? You know…about how things are going…really? Are you brutally honest? In his best-selling book Good to Great, Jim Collins introduced the “discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” “You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts. The good-to-great companies operated in accordance with this principle, and the comparison companies generally did not.” Today I want to talk about a very important step in the preferred future process. Just as important as identifying and describing your preferred future, being honest about how things really are today is absolutely essential. Only with real honesty, brutal honesty, can you begin to design the strategies that will help you get from where you are (your present) to where you want to be (your preferred future).
Brutal Honesty About Your PresentSounds harsh. Brutal even. But without an honest evaluation of right now, you can’t possibly build an exponential system. So how do you evaluate your present? What are you looking for? Here are some of the questions I use: First, Is group life promoted year-round as an essential ingredient of spiritual growth? So that we’re clear, here’s what I mean about each of these terms:
- Group life must be a life-on-life activity. It can’t be a purely educational experience. It’s about interaction. Can it happen on Sunday a.m. in a classroom setting? It can, but it will take work to create the right environment there. At the same time, it takes work to create the right environment in a living room.
- Group life must be promoted. By promoted I mean talked about, highlighted, mentioned and referred to. It needs to happen in your pastor’s messages, in announcements, in testimonies, on your website, your e-newsletter, and your bulletin or program.
- Group life must be promoted all the time, not once a season or when it’s recruiting time, and certainly not in a kind of rotating emphasis where equal time is given to every ministry or program. This is a very important question about where you are right now. Without year-round promotion, you can’t get to exponential.
- Group life must be seen as an essential ingredient of spiritual growth. From a practical standpoint, it really needs to be seen as one of a very few essential ingredients. What are the others? Gathering for corporate worship and serving in a gift-based, passion-driven ministry. You’ll have difficulty getting to exponential if there is much there beyond those three.
A Truly Brutal DiagnosisA thorough diagnosis of your present would include an honest conversation about much more. There would be questions about the legitimacy of your coaching efforts. You’d have to assess whether you are truly making disciples or simply connecting people? You would have to look deeply into the reasons you’ve connected some but not others. A thorough diagnosis of your present would also include a careful look at all the elements that effect small group ministry. For example, what does communication look like in your church? How effectively do all of the communication ingredients work together to present a clear sense of the next step you want unconnected people to take? Are you presenting a pathway that is easy, obvious and strategic? Or are you really pointing unconnected people to a confusing buffet? While communication is an important element to diagnose, there are many others. Here are a few more:
- How committed is your senior pastor to the role of small group champion?
- How confusing is your current menu of connection and discipleship options?
- How adequately are you resourced for small group ministry? When you look at staff, budget, room allocation, lobby presence and website presence can you tell that small group ministry is a priority? Or are you really prioritizing everything and nothing at the same time?