Early in my pastorate, I realized our congregation (at that time about 180) was like many churches of all sizes—though we called ourselves friendly, we were essentially a small core of insiders with a bunch of newcomers on the fringe, unable to break in.
One solution was to start a small group ministry. A year or so into it, I preached a series "The Company of the Committed" built around seven spiritual disciplines. Wanting to take our people deeper than I could with just the sermon, we asked all of our small groups to focus on the sermon material—sort of a lecture/lab approach. A simple discussion guide helped them apply and practice the disciplines throughout the series.
It worked so well, we've done it ever since. Now almost all of our groups use the discussion guide (included in the bulletin) for their weekly meeting.
- Increased sermon impact. Instead of skimming the surface of different topics in sermon and small groups, we reinforce one key concept. People don't just listen—they interact and personally apply the message.