Group of people reading the Bible together.

Starting a small group ministry will move your church members beyond "doing church" to "being the church."

And when followers of Jesus are being the church, the not-yet-followers of Christ can’t help but notice (Acts 2:47). There are five important steps for starting a healthy small group.

Step 1: Determine the goal of your group.

In Bill Donahue’s book, Leading Life-Changing Small Groups he points out five kinds of small groups. I have added one more.

  • Disciple-making groups: for believers wanting to develop spiritual disciplines and go deep

  • Community Groups: for believers and non-believers, persons who want to build in-depth relationships with others

  • Service Groups: for believers and non-believers who are serving alongside one another in ministry

  • Seeker Groups: groups led by a couple of believers but for non-believers. Groups that spend much time dealing with the issues non-believers are considering before coming to Christ.

  • Support Groups: groups for believers and non-believers that support attendees through personal difficulties

  • Healing Groups: groups for believers and non-believers who come alongside one another to recognize and be released from the lies that Satan has imprinted on their hearts

​When you decide what kind/kinds of group you want to be, you will know what resources fit your group, how to train others and who to recruit for leadership.

Step 2: Craft a purpose statement.

Every aspect of the ministry will be driven by a compelling purpose statement. Here are a few facts about your purpose statement:

  • It must get to the core of your small group ministry. Be certain the purpose statement doesn’t try to say too much.

  • It must be short enough to be easily memorized and remembered. You’ll want every person on the small group team to be able to voice this statement without hesitation, so make it short and sweet.

  • It should have the same vernacular of your church culture and compliment the purpose statement of your church.

Step 3: Get help from others.

If possible, set up a meeting with your pastor or with other group leaders and express what God is asking you to do. Be sure to share the following information with them.

  • How this ministry fits into the purposes or vision of the church

  • Your vision for the ministry

  • Why you believe this ministry is important for this church

  • The implementation plan you will use to get this ministry up and running

Answer any questions they may have realizing that there will be many questions yet unanswered. Experienced leaders can help you prepare with information you may not have, but they can also pray for you.

Step 4: Enlist and lead the first group.

The first group is made up of 10 or so people who will become your first small group leaders. Lead their group. Let them see what an effective group leader does. They will do what they have seen done so be the model small group leader for them. Using Disciples Path is a great way to begin each and every small group.

Step 5: Allow the people in your first group to start a group of their own.

Once you are confident that your first group leaders are ready to lead a group of their own, help them recruit group members and be there for them as they begin their journey as small group leaders.

Continue Reading: How to Start a Small Group in 9 Easy Steps

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Rick Howerton travels around the country as consultant and trainer to teach churches how to build small-group ministries. He is founding pastor of The Bridge Church in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Rick has authored Destination: Community - A Small-Group Ministry Manual from Serendipity House, and is co-author of Small Group Life Ministry Manual: A New Approach to Small Groups. He and his wife, Julie, make their home in Franklin, Tennessee.