Rethinking Small Group Strategy: Growing Organically

The below excerpt is from my book Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups. This revised and expanded edition shows church leaders how to make their small groups work.

As your church becomes centered on small groups, the system’s growth will begin to happen organically. There are three things you should do consistently to keep the soil fertile.

1. Encourage staff members to keep their “groups radar” sharp. 

Every staff member should be in the habit of encouraging the people they come in contact with to sign up for a group. At every weekend service, community project, fun event, children’s ministry drop-off, etc., your staff should be saying things like, “Hey, Joe. How are you? So you’ve been at the church for three weeks now? Have you heard about our small groups? Let me introduce you to Ed. He’s leading a great group.” Make sure staff members are always working to spark interest and spur uninvolved people into action.

One way to help your staff keep their radar sharp is to study this book with them. By working through the material together, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to both small group philosophy and practicality. In addition, one of the best investments you can make in your staff is to connect them with the small groups coaching I offer. Go to to find more information.

2. Have group member testimonies at the weekend service. 

Preface these testimonies with something like, “Ben and Sara are going to give a testimony now about how God has been working in their marriage. They are in Craig and Emily’s small group.” Make small group language something your people are used to hearing. The subtle implication is that if someone isn’t involved in a small group, they are missing out.

 3. Hold members accountable for small group participation. 

At The Journey, small group participation is a membership requirement. Groups are an essential part of members’ spiritual growth. It’s okay to ask them to join a group and then hold them to that commitment. (For additional resources on developing a strong membership process, go to Plus, much like with staff participation, you will never get the new people or irregular attenders in your church involved in a system that your members haven’t bought into.

This doesn’t mean that your members have to lead or be in a group every single semester. If a life circumstance is making commitment to a group difficult, they can take a semester off. The importance thing is that they are a part of the system and love the culture. The are excited about groups, talk about groups, and regularly attend or lead groups.

Remember, your attitude about and involvement in the small group system is the rudder that will direct the church’s small group journey. When you as a leader latch onto the vision, others will follow. So do your part. Take the lead. Think full staff participation, and you will be on the path to small group success.

 – Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas, with Jennifer Dykes Henson

The above excerpt is from p. 93-94 of Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups.

Drawing from the startling success of small groups at The Journey Church, Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas debunk the myths, set the record straight, and show how church leaders can implement a healthy small group ministry that gets the maximum number of people involved and solves many of the important problems facing churches of all sizes. These practical strategies will produce life-changing results.

P.S. – Click here to grab your copy from Amazon today!

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church planter, coach and church growth strategist, working with churches in over 45 denominations. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in San Francisco and Boca Raton, FL. He first developed the Assimilation System 10 years ago at the Journey Church and has since implemented and improved these strategies with over 3,000 churches across all sizes and denominations. He started coaching pastors in 2006 and has personally coached over 2100+ senior pastors, helping them break common growth barriers like 125, 250, 500, 1000 and beyond, all while maintaining personal life and ministry balance. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has trained more than 50,000 church leaders (3,000+ church planters). He is the author of over 85 church growth resources and 17+ books, including Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests Into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church and The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life and Ministry. His continued mission is to help church leaders around the world cooperate with God in creating healthy, thriving churches. Nelson is married to Kelley and together they have one son, Alexander.

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