My wife loves to garden. She gains a deep sense of accomplishment every time our house is surrounded by beautiful flowers. On the other hand, I abhor gardening; because it is usually associated with hours and hours on my hands and knees working the soil. I would rather save myself the time and pain by just putting some plastic flowers in a pot. However, plastic flowers never look as good as the real thing.
The same is true of small group ministry. Every small group ministry leader wants to have thriving small groups and a growing ministry. But not every leader is willing to put in the hard work. Growing small groups takes time and effort, and maybe even some pain. I believe there are three key principles from gardening you can use that will help small groups flourish in your church.
- Prepare your personal soil. – The first step is to pray for God to make you a leader of leaders. If you want amazing small groups leaders to follow you, you must become an amazing leader of leaders. Becoming a leader of leaders is not something that can simply be achieved by effort or reading leadership books. Nor will your leadership suddenly expand overnight. You must spend time in prayer and work to build humility.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” – 1 Peter 5:6
- Work the soil, not the flowers. – Invest your time in building relationships with your small group leaders, not connecting people to small groups. This may sound counter-intuitive. After all, small groups exist to connect people, and connecting is important. But small groups don’t exist without a leader. As a leader of leaders your responsibility is to inspire, equip and empower your individual leaders so they can connect people to their small group.
“Sometimes the best equipping you can provide is knowing them personally and making yourself available.” – Steve Gladen
- Plant new plants in fresh soil. – The best place for new people to connect is in a new small group. It is definitely easier to send new people to an existing small group. However, once a small group has been meeting together for six weeks, it can be difficult for a new person to join that group. In order to connect new people, the majority of your energy must be devoted to finding new leaders and launching new small groups. The more often you can start new groups, the faster your small group ministry will grow.
As you work to prepare the environment for small groups to grow, you will be tempted to take the easy road. To just put out some “plastic flowers” and all it good. But if you put in the time and effort to work the soil, the growth you experience will be worth it.