ActivateConventional Wisdom: Small groups are just one of many programs that the church offers to its attenders.

Reality: Small groups are exponentially more effective when they stand alone, rather than having to compete with other church programs.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is for us to be our own worst enemy? Too often, we sabotage ourselves without even realizing it. We think we are moving through life—or through ministry—doing all we can to prosper and grow. But, if we were to look closely, most of us would find that we are unconsciously creating quite a bit of “drag” for ourselves. We have bad habits that keep us from being as productive as we could be, wrong thinking that has pointed us just off center of our desired target, and a tendency toward incessant busyness that has robbed us of our full potential in key areas of focus. This drag on our system is almost imperceptible to us. But when an onlooker points it out, we begin to realize what we could be accomplishing if it weren’t there.

Only in the reflection of our potential do we recognize the truth of our current reality.

What would the church look like if we all got serious about our focus? Imagine if each one of us made a commitment to concentrate only on those things that strengthen the Body of Christ individually and as a whole, refusing to get bogged down with distractions that quell our effectiveness. What if we eliminated all the drag? What kind of church would that be?

Two Types of Churches

When it comes to small groups, there are two primary types of churches— churches with small groups and churches of small groups.1 Drag will subtly latch itself onto many churches when leaders make the conventional decision to operate with small groups. Let’s take a closer look at the difference.

1. Church with Small Groups

A church with small groups offers its attenders a buffet of ministry options to choose from—different programs and ministries to meet various needs and occupy people’s time. Small groups are just one of the many options. In addition to groups, the church with small groups may have a mid-week worship service, men’s ministry events, women’s ministry events, recovery programs, and ongoing adult education seminars. The list could go on and on.

2. Church of Small Groups

A church of small groups focuses on and runs all ministry through the small groups system. The church’s attention is completely centered on the weekend service and small groups. Everything that happens in the church happens by way of these two entities. No other programs or extra ministries vie for attention in a way that could take away from or limit the effectiveness of the small groups.

Choose to Be a Church of Small Groups

If you want to see more than 30 percent to 40 percent of your attenders involved in a group, you need to make the decision to be a church of small groups. Otherwise, you will be acting as your own worst enemy and putting drag on your own system. When you decide to structure your system for growth, focus is the key. There is no way you can ask attender Joe Average to be at the weekend service, be at the mid-week service, go to the men’s prayer breakfast on Friday morning and be in a small group. It’s unrealistic. He only has so much time. When you create a culture that gives your attenders multiple options for how they want to engage in ministry, you do them a disservice. Here are a couple of scenarios we’ve seen happen time and time again.
Searcy, N., & Thomas, K. (2010). Activate: an entirely new approach to small groups. Ventura, CA: Regal Books.