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Leading a Thriving Small Groups Ministry with Ryan Hartwig


by unSeminary: Welcome to the unSeminary podcast. I’m excited to have Ryan T. Hartwig with us today. Ryan is Professor of Communication at Colorado Christian University and has studied collaborative organizations within the church, such as groups and teams.

Ryan is with us to talk about a new book that he wrote with Courtney W. Davis and Jason A. Sniff called Leading Small Groups That Thrive. If you’ve ever wondered how to plan for, launch, build, sustain, and multiply highly effective, transformational, healthy small group experiences where people grow spiritually together, you don’t want to miss today’s podcast.

What makes a group thrive? // Churches promise that being a part of groups will be a life changing experience for attendees. But what makes some groups a hit while others are a miss? Ryan says research has shown that there are three things found in outstanding groups. Firstly, people are growing in some way together, either beginning steps in their faith or growing in their discipleship, and the group is helping them take these steps. Secondly, there is a sense of community and taking care of each other—people feel seen and known. And lastly, the group is thinking about how they can be a blessing to people outside of their group.Create a compelling purpose. // Churches can promote groups as being essential because they are a place where you can be in community. But there is a disconnect when people consider that they are going to be meeting with a bunch of people they don’t know well, and somehow this doesn’t feel “essential”. Instead, churches need to be clear about a really compelling purpose in their groups. Draw people in so that they say “I can’t miss this.” Creating a compelling purpose helps individuals to recognize that they can’t miss group because they are playing an important role in their friends’ lives and their friends are playing an important role in their life.Launch really, really well. // People want to know what they need to do or understand to be “successful” in the group. How do you help people to feel comfortable in a group? This includes explaining what’s going on with food, kids, defining expectations, how to be prepared each week, and so on. Be over-the-top in your communication, especially in those first critical weeks, and this will help people become comfortable as the group gets going.Discuss logistics. // While researching the book, the authors asked people how much time they spent in their groups discussing logistics. What they discovered was that the groups that focused more time on discussing logistics (such as potential serving opportunities) showed a greater contribution to each other’s spiritual growth. These groups had more willingness to work together. The activity of coordinating can drive deeper relationships and conversations and help gel a group together.Open vs closed groups. // If people in groups aren’t able to stay together over a period of time, manage your expectations around what growth will happen with constantly open groups. It will be harder for people in open groups to come together and trust each other and have authenticity and vulnerability with one another. On the other hand, be careful about having a closed group that has no outside influence for a very long time. Consider having a core group and then adding people over time.

You can learn more about Leading Small Groups That Thrive and get free resources at http://www.thrivinggroups.com. Plus don’t forget to download the Thriving Groups Self-Assessment.

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: Portable Church Industries

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