Small Group Ministry The “Right” Way


“You’ll know when you go.”

Many years ago a popular local commercial for my Southern town’s newly transplanted NHL hockey team repeated this phrase in order to help encourage the college-basketball-obsessed, NASCAR-enthused sports fans to give hockey a try and go see their new professional team play in the beautiful arena with 20,000 seats to sell.

“You’ll know when you go.” As in, don’t trust what you see on TV. Just come on down here and try a game live. Only then will you see what all the fuss is about and begin to appreciate how fun this game of Canadians and Swedes on ice skates can be.

And they were right. There are few sporting events as exciting as a good hockey game between two teams playing so hard their players have to literally tag out for replacements every minute or so.

“You’ll know when you go” could also work for promoting the in-home small group ministries that many churches are going to nowadays in place of the traditional Sunday school.

Whether your church has done small group ministry for its entire existence, has transitioned into it from the traditional Sunday school, offers up both, or has yet to bend from tradition and believes midweek is only for visitation, kids’ choir practice, and Ms. Stella’s meatloaf dinner in the fellowship hall, you no doubt have naysayers in your flock when it comes to the idea of midweek in-home small groups.

“What do we do with the kids?” “I work until 7:00 most days and don’t have any energy for something more.” “My schedule only allows for me to do church things on Sunday.” “I’m wayyyyy too busy to commit one night every week to another meeting.” Which is usually followed up with “Johnny is on two baseball teams and takes piano lessons, and Susie has ballet practice, gymnastics, soccer, and cheerleading. Sorry, my hands are tied. We have no free nights left.”

The excuses are plenty, and many are quite legit. Everyone has a different schedule, and who are we to try and dictate how they need to prioritize their time. You will never win that argument, nor should you try. But if done right . . . if the small group ministry is allowed to be the way it was intended—meaning, not a weekly Bible study, but a small body of believers learning to live life together—then wow! “You’ll know when you go.” Your small group will become the most important group of people in your life, save for your immediate family.

Four Things “You’ll Know When You Go”

  1. Laughter around a dinner table (for those small groups incorporating a meal or dessert) is becoming less and less an experience that today’s broken or busy families are experiencing regularly. But in a small group, the meal is less about the food (who cares if we’re only eating rice and beans or ordering pizza yet again?) and all about the fun and fellowship that comes with having multiple families and a dozen kids breaking bread together.
  2. There’s something about sitting on couches or pillows on the floor and dressing in T-shirts and active wear that allows people to open up more about the mess in their life that they need our prayers on, that they don’t feel as comfortable sharing in the more formal setting of Sunday school where most prayer requests are about jobs, sick family members, and the upcoming election. When the leader of the small group sets the tone correctly and allows others the freedom to open up to their brothers and sisters in Christ, that’s when the group really begins to hit another level.
  3. Many small group ministries base their discussions on the previous Sunday’s sermon. And when you do this, it allows the sermon to speak more into the members’ lives, and gives the opportunity for members of the body to both learn from other members as well as teach others with what God impressed upon their hearts in the specific passage or topic. Pastors are not the only wise teachers in the church flock, so why do we oftentimes act as though that is the case and not give others’ opportunities to add on to the discussion and share what God has been teaching them in their own personal Scripture readings and prayer time? Small groups allow others to find the teachers in themselves.
  4. Just as church shouldn’t be all about Sundays, small groups shouldn’t be all about whatever day of the week you set aside for it. When your small group becomes one truly living life together—sharing meals, getting real with each other, and teaching each other the wisdom and counsel God has shared among different members of the group—it almost becomes a daily ministry. Group texts can be sent out in mere seconds when an emergency happens at home or work. Praises can be shared via Facebook or email when God comes through in ways you had been asking your group to pray with you about. Weekends become times for you to have an impromptu meal when you realize you made way too much chili for just your little family on Saturday night. And breakfast meetings at Dunkin’ Donuts before work become a time for counseling the small group member who is struggling at home with a personal issue.

“You’ll know when you go.” Give small group ministry a try if you aren’t currently doing it. Or give it another try and do it better if you had given it up previously. And for the naysayers who don’t have time . . . I believe they’ll learn how to make time if the small group is done right. Just keep inviting and encouraging them and tell them they’ll know when they go. If it worked for hockey, I think God may find success with it too.


Kevin Harvey is the author of two books, which can both be found here at Amazon. You can also read about his family’s ongoing journey of adoption through foster care at Find him on Twitter at @PopCultureKevin.

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