Why You Should Mix Up your Small Groups (and How to Do It)
Mixing up a church’s small groups is a great way to grow relationships across the whole congregation. But is there a way to do it without losing all the relational benefits already built up?
Most churches, whatever their size, have some kind of small group ministry, where church members and others meet together in homes for Bible study, prayer, and time together.
These gatherings help make church small - that is, they allow church members to get to know others in a deeper and more relational way than Sunday services often allow.
"Having the same small groups of people meeting together week-in week-out can have its downsides."
The benefits include the space to apply the Bible more directly to yourself and others, to pray for each other more knowledgeably, and to care for those in your group in increasingly practical ways.
Over time, however, having the same small groups of people meeting together week-in week-out can have its downsides.
The dangers of doing nothing
Groups may start to feel a bit stale or predictable after a long time together - you’ve heard everyone’s views, many times!
Also, what about the people in other groups? Wouldn’t it be good to get to know some of them better too?
There’s even the danger of a group becoming a bit cliquey and awkward for new members to join.
Finally, it could be that a group gets a bit unbalanced with a few strong personalities overly dominating it, making it difficult for quieter members.
So, mixing up your small groups from time to time (every few years or so) can be a good and wise policy.
The challenge of change
However, for every person who might relish such a change, there’ll be someone else who probably dreads it. After all, good friendships have been formed, lives have been shared, and many blessings received and given.
Some will fear the loss of familiar faces or the disruption of getting to know a new set of people. Change, especially in church, can be a challenge.
So, is there a way to make changes while mitigating some of that disruption and potential loss?
An approach to mixing small groups
We made this change at Greenview Evangelical Church last year. Here is how we approached the task: to effectively mix the groups whilst keeping a good balance and a level of continuity.
Allocating new leaders
First, we decided that everyone would be allocated to a new small group leader. This meant fresh leadership for everyone and that every leader would themselves get to know a new set of people.
Incidentally, from a purely safeguarding point of view, we felt there was a sense of good practice and wisdom in rotating leaders separately and thus not having any leader allocated to the same small group of people indefinitely.
Splitting the groups
Second - and this was the key to providing a degree of continuity - we divided the members of each existing group into two balanced halves. That is, we asked each leader to divide up their previous group so there was an equal number of ‘talkers’, quiet people, young people, old people, wise people, quirky people, etc. in each half.
We allowed a bit of discretion – for example if a leader knew that someone only came because of someone else in the group (perhaps depending on them for a lift) then they could be kept in the same half.
We then allocated each half to a new leader. We did this with each group so that every new group consisted of two halves from different groups and a new leader to the entire group.
This resulted in significant change but with some continuity, and the ability not to split up certain individuals where that might cause real difficulties.
Our groups went from this...
So far, the changes have worked well.
We now have groups that feel fresh while not leaving people feeling they’re back at square one relationally.