Last week, I wrote about the myth that small groups won’t thrive in the Black church setting. I hope the post helped you realize 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 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 small groups has impacted his/her life. Once congregants notice that the leadership is all in, they will follow suit.
2. Small Groups are Infused in the Mission/Vision
How do small groups fit into your overall mission and vision? Have you created goals that are simple to measure 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, they have not succeeded. And they 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 a small group ministry to that menu will cause it to get lost in the shuffle.
Concord Church had 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 or Chipotle), Concord adopts the less is more approach to help focus on what the church feels is important.
4. Small Groups are “Space-Contextualized”
Successful black church small groups ministries pick where their small groups meet very carefully. 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 compete for a congregant’s attention each week. Social media, sports, entertainment, and other activities take up a lot of their time. What if they committed a small amount of their time each week to spiritual growth with other believers? Unfortunately, that idea of community has to be sold (both theologically and psychologically).
Check out this spring brochure from Concord Church promoting its spring small groups offering. It’s clean, simple, easy on the eyes, and provides just enough information to get congregants plugged in.
Where have you placed your small group marketing material? If it’s in the back corner in a low traffic area, then you probably shouldn’t expect to garner much interest. If your church is really interested in thriving small groups, then invest time and resources in marketing the small groups on various platforms (including social media, print, and digital communications).
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?