In my last post, I wrote about the myth that small groups wouldn’t thrive in the Black Church setting. I hope that helped you realize that small groups could work in the Black Church. But how? Here are five keys to thriving black church small groups that I gleaned from my research.
1. The Leadership is All In
Thriving Black Church small groups have pastors and leaders who participate in those small groups. In the Black Church, congregants emulate the leaders. Especially the senior pastor. If a senior pastor of a Black Church is not part of a small group, many of the pastor’s congregants won’t be either.
Announcements and Promotional videos help. Show the leadership team in their small group setting during morning announcements. Make it a point to let a leader come and share how a small group has impacted his/her life. Once the congregation notices that the leadership is all in, they’ll follow suit.
If a senior pastor of a Black Church is not part of a small group, many of the pastor’s congregants won’t be either.
2. Small Groups are Infused in the Mission/Vision
How do small groups fit into your overall mission and vision? Have you created a system to measure goals for your small groups?
Check out the vision of Concord Church, which has 50% of its congregants active in small groups: To see every member actively involved in the life of a Small Group. Concord has a simple, measurable goal: Is every member actively involved in the life of a small group? If not, we have not succeeded. And we keep pressing to make that vision a reality.
Many black churches that attempt to implement small groups don’t make it part of the overall mission or vision of the church. It just becomes another program or initiative. Another option in the church buffet. Successful ministries implement small groups at the mission and vision level before implementation.
3. Small Groups are a Way of Life, Not a Ministry
Ministry menus can kill momentum in churches fast. Some Black churches hold on to ministries far too long without doing an audit to assess their viability. Adding small groups to that menu will cause them to get lost in the shuffle.
Concord Church has a different approach. “For us, small groups are not an initiative,” says Concord small groups pastor Jeremy Williams. “It’s our way of life; it’s how we grow people.” Like a restaurant that offers a limited menu (think Five Guys), Concord adopts the less is more approach to help focus on what the church feels is important.
Ministry menus can kill momentum in churches fast.
4. Small Groups are in a Contextualized Format
Small groups come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some small groups meet in homes. Others meet in public spaces. Concord uses a model that includes a large group teaching, which then breaks into smaller groups. Whatever the case, a thriving Black small group ministry considers context before it settles on meeting locations.
5. Small Groups are Marketed Well
Marketing? In a church? What about Jesus driving out the money changers in the Temple? Stop being so spiritual and let’s get practical. Many things vie for congregant’s attention each week.
Where have you placed your small group marketing material? You probably shouldn't expect to garner much interest if it’s in the back corner in a low-traffic area. If your church is interested in thriving small groups, invest time and resources in marketing the small groups on various platforms (including social media, print, and digital communications).
Questions: Did I miss anything? Do you know of any churches doing small groups well? What are they doing well that I could add to this list?