Small Group Host Webinar Series

Whether you’ve been a Small Group Leader for years or are still considering whether or not hosting a Small Group is right for you, our Webinar Series on hosting small groups will have something that will make you look at the role in a new way. Below, find links to summaries and videos of all the webinars we conducted last year in order to help hosts and leaders make the most of their groups.

Topic 1: Why are Small Groups Important? How Can I be a Great Leader?

Topic 2: Growing Your Small Group

Topic 3: 8 Goals to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Small Group

Topic 4: 5 Key Elements of a Healthy Small Group

Topic 5: Top 5 Small Group Challenges (And How to Solve Them)

Topic 6: Divide to Multiply: How to Turn One Powerful Group Into Many

What’s next? 
Looking for a study to keep your group members engaged? The Christian Life Trilogy has 20 weeks of consecutive studies and Small Group material to help members connect with each other and grow deeper in relationship with the Lord. 

The Power of Alignment: Preparing for an Unforgettable Lent

This blog series explores the impact and long-term growth your church can experience through an intentionally aligned, church-wide small group study. Today’s post focuses on the impact of aligning every part of a church’s Lenten programming to engage a congregation in every way. This is the first post from the series: The Power of Alignment in Your Church.

The goal of alignment is simple: engage a flock of growing parishioners to do more than just attend services, instead energizing the church through their deepening spiritual passion and unity. By aligning your congregation with Individual, Group, and Service participation, you encourage different levels of connection that lead your church closer to the throne of Grace.

But what, exactly, does that alignment look like? Here’s a sample of a Day in the Life of an aligned church:

Daily Devotion: If each member is reading The Crucified Life as a personal daily devotional, they’re already engaging on a personal level with the idea of picking up their Cross and following Christ. Here’s an example: Day 8 of The Crucified Life

Small Groups: Each weekly meeting of a Small Group will act as a hub for discussion and engagement regarding the daily devotions. As the small groups are meeting, God will be doing amazing work in the lives of the members of your congregation; that work must find expression and manifest corporately in word and sacrament, in spirit and truth. Ultimately, this campaign is about transitioning people–getting them connected to God through connection with each other. This transition is accomplished through the use of small groups following the model of Acts 2:46-47:

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Youth Engagement: This plan is one that engages every member of your congregation, including young people. With The Cross Walk, the youth of your church can connect with their family members and friends as they, too, learn to walk in the way of the Cross with lessons that mirror the adult ministry. Take a look at the second week’s lessons to see the similarities across the board with the other content: Week 2 of The Cross Walk.

Weekend Services: The worship services during the campaign are powerful times that can harmonize the many elements of the campign and underscore the curriculum in a memorable manner. Through the use of several tools designed specifically for The Crucified Life campaign, your services will become the time when the power of alignment is on full display, synthesizing the entire campaign for your congregation.

Divide to Multiply: How to Turn One Powerful Small Group Into Many

The Kingdom of God spreads through multiplication, and it is effective to be intentional about using your small group ministry to multiply the power of God to build His Kingdom. When you have a powerful small group that is changing lives and impacting people, it may be a good idea to consider splitting the group into two (or more) groups in order to multiply that effect. This goes against the nature of many people, who think “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but we urge you to consider this concept.

Positives and Negatives

There are some really powerful reasons to consider dividing up groups:

  • More groups are available to members of the community or church.
  • It helps to develop new leaders, who might not have otherwise had the courage or opportunity to step up.
  • It keeps groups small, which is best for the sense of closeness and community (8-12 people is ideal) – more than that, it’s time to divide.
  • It helps to guard against exclusivity. A group that is together for a long time without bringing in new members can become inward-focused and self-centered, rather than outwardly focused on building the Kingdom.
  • New friends and new relationships are built.
  • Personal growth is enhanced. When we get settled into a long-time group, we often find ourselves in a comfort zone and not challenged to grow. Being willing to sacrifice comfort and accept new challenges will enhance our opportunities to grow.
  • New enthusiasm is introduced. People who are beginning something new often have a fresh enthusiasm that long-timers have forgotten. Bringing in new people can keep your mindset open and fresh.
  • It’s a new opportunity to reach people who desperately want/need a group. There might be people in your church/community who are in deep need of a Christian community who just need an opportunity to join a group of people who will encourage their faith.
  • It’s biblical! Christ Himself used this model with His disciples. They moved from disciples to apostles, who grew their own ministries and spread His Kingdom all across the world!

It’s also important for leaders to be aware of potential negatives to splitting. There will be resistance from members who are happy and comfortable in the current small group. Some very entrenched groups might resent being forced to change, so a leader has to be prayerful and wise about how hard to push the group to split. New groups will very likely not be as good as the old group was, at least in the beginning. Members have to be prepared for there to be a transition period that might be difficult or uncomfortable.

How to Successfully Divide and Multiply

Once you decide to move forward with splitting a group, here are the steps for making it as successful as possible.

  1. Cast the vision early – it’s important to affect the larger body of Christ.
  2. Select an apprentice or two and give them opportunity to grow as a leader. Encourage them to be preparing to start their own group. Start them small with simple tasks and then grow their responsibilities as they’re ready.
  3. If possible, pre-determine the mission of the NEW group and talk through it with existing group members. This may uncover some common denominators among existing group members that a new group can be based on – a shared experience or goal rather than just location or life stage.
  4. Ask for volunteers to serve as host early on – either occasionally or on a regular basis. This will expose people to various leadership tasks and help build confidence in their ability to lead.
  5. Determine who will go where. Create 2 groups out of the current members – some staying and some members going with the new leader. Alternatively, the existing leaders can leave to start a brand new group and put a new leader in place, or several groups can break off and all begin new groups. These conversations can be awkward and result in hurt feelings. Encourage everyone to be open and honest, be filled with grace, and remember that the purpose is to build the Kingdom.
  6. Count down. Don’t wait until the last minute – encourage group members to pray about the possibilities. It also gives members time to embrace the idea of dividing as you are likely to have push back on this concept.
  7. Celebrate the new groups and keep casting the vision!

Making the Decision to Divide

How does a group leader know when it’s time to divide and multiply? It may be time to divide when:

  • You sense there is a leader in the making
  • Discussion with your members sounds positive
  • You have prayed about it and feel that it’s time to move ahead
  • Your group has been together more than 18 months

Timing is everything. Don’t divide in the Spring. Stay together through the Summer; share some great memories and divide in the Fall.


The ultimate goal of small groups is enabling life change through discipleship in community. After a group finds success and does well, it’s time to start thinking about how to expand the group’s impact. One powerful way to do that is to break up the group. That might sound counter-intuitive, but dividing a group can make room for more people to join, be affected, and multiply the number of lives changed. Dividing to multiply may not make sense in math class, but it’s magic in small group ministry. Boldly move forward and see how God will multiply your groups for His Kingdom!


Watch a 50-minute recorded webinar presenting this material:

Top 5 Small Group Challenges (and How to Solve Them)

As many positive things as we have to say about small groups, a group will always have its challenges. A wise leader will help its group navigate through these challenges. Here are our suggestions:

Challenge 1: Lack of Commitment

Life is just so busy!! This is the #1 challenge that small group ministries face. People sign up to join a group, but then they never show up.


  • Start with a shorter term commitment – 3 or 6 weeks. After the original length of commitment is finished, groups can reevaluate and see who wants to continue and how.
  • Use a group covenant. Have group members sign a commitment acknowledging the expectation that group members are expected to attend every meeting barring unforeseen circumstances. Make these expectations clear from the very first meeting.
  • Do a church-wide study so that all groups are using the same material. The fear of being the only person to not know about the material is a good motivator to keep people participating.

*Tip: Make sure to give plenty of notice to groups that you are planning on launching a church-wide campaign so that they can be mentally prepared to commit for the series.*


Challenge 2: Lack of Openness

Many groups feel a lack of authenticity in fellowship or communication. There is almost always at least one member who just rubs others the wrong way, which can be a real barrier to the sense of community in a group.


  • Make sure to give your group social time to break the ice and get to know each other before expecting them to jump right in to deep material. Plan ahead so that your first meeting or two are just get-to-know-you events.
  • Check your leadership. How do you model openness? The leader begins by modeling how they want the other group members to be.
  • Frankly address the issue of diverse personalities and backgrounds in the group. Talk about how the group’s diversity is an opportunity to show Christ’s love or to love as Christ would!
  • Refocus the group on the reasons you meet.
  • Privately speak to any group members who are monopolizing the group or causing difficulties to relationships in the group. Make sure to come from a place of love.

*Tip: Strategize a plan with a co-leader to have a code for redirecting a discussion when one member is monopolizing or taking it the wrong direction. Maybe you can say, “Wow, that’s really interesting,” which will be code for your co-leader to call on another member and ask for their opinion.*


Challenge 3: Exclusivity

Some groups can begin to feel like a clique where newcomers are not welcome. This is especially common in groups who know each other well or have been together for a long time. It can be difficult to convince people to be willing to risk changing a comfortable group by adding new members.


  • Revisit the goals of the group from the covenant made at the beginning. If seeing lives changed in following Christ is one of our goals, then how are we doing that? And why wouldn’t we want to spread that effect to other people?
  • Define what openness and outreach means for your group either currently or in the future.
  • Consider the idea of dividing to multiply. The group might need to split into two (or more) groups in order to multiply the positive effect to even more lives.
  • Find a service project as a group. Even closed groups need to impact the world around them.

*Tip: The Empty Chair can be a good concept for reinforcing the idea that there’s always room for more people. Make sure that at every meeting, there is one extra chair in the circle that stays empty. That Empty Chair is for the next person your group can positively impact.*


Challenge 4: Choosing Materials

It can be challenging to select materials that will benefit everyone in the group. Individual preferences and needs can make it difficult.


  • Let the leader just choose the material, and group members can take it or leave it.
  • Determine the goals of your group and then choose the study based on that.
  • Participate in a church-wide study so that there is no discussion on what material to do.


Challenge 5: Disintegration

If people aren’t showing up or are showing up late and unprepared, your group is in trouble. Sometimes groups just fall apart. It happens!


  • Don’t take it personally. Don’t let it discourage you.
  • Talk about it openly with your group – don’t wait. Discuss what’s going on as soon as you see signs of trouble. Ask your group members what is going on and what can be changed to make it work.
  • Take the lead on next steps – lay out a plan to get back on track. Maybe have an “official reconstituting” of your group.
  • If the group does dissolve, take what you learned and take it with you into your next group. Don’t give up!


Bonus Challenge: Scheduling

Families with children and lots of activities often have a very difficult time coordinating calendars and making a regular schedule. Many groups don’t get off the ground because the members can’t coordinate a time to meet.


  • Set a definite regular meeting time, and those who can make it will be there. Your group will get used to making those times available on their calendar, and those who can never make it will find another group.
  • Offer suggestions for childcare. Maybe a group can pool money to hire a sitter for their kids. Larger churches can choose one night of the week to offer childcare at the church so that groups can meet.
  • Consider making a closed Facebook Group just for your group so that members can stay connected even if they can’t make it to the meetings.
  • Don’t feel pressure to have huge groups. Maybe just two couples meet together regularly. “Where two or more are gathered…” Groups really find great intimacy and depth when they are smaller.


Every group, even the best groups, will have challenges – sometimes severe! Prayer and intentional leadership can get your group through challenges stronger than ever.

To watch a 50-minute webinar that presents the above ideas and more, see the video below:

5 Key Elements of a Healthy Small Group

Small groups have the power to change lives. A small group that is healthy and focused can be even more effective. So what are the most important aspects that you as a leader can emphasize in order to make the most of your small group to deeply impact both the lives of the members and to spread its good effects far outside the group itself?

1. Scripture

The unity of a small group is founded on its agreement in the Bible. Having access to the Word of God is a privilege, and the unity of a small group can help its members to embrace it as a personal letter from God. Small groups can be a safe place for those who are unfamiliar with the Scriptures to be able to cultivate a desire to learn and grow in the Truth. (See 2 Peter 3:18.) It is the responsibility of the group leader to make sure the group stays a safe and encouraging place for that, and also that the group remains focused on God’s Truth. It’s how we know Christ, learn God’s plan, and remember God’s promises – all essential for life in Christ.

2. Prayer

Prayer invites God into the happenings of the group and helps them be confident that God is with them. Just like those who are inexperienced in the Scriptures, there may also be members of your group who are inexperienced with prayer. The group leader can make the group a safe place for members to learn about the power of prayer and become comfortable and gain confidence in approaching God through prayer, both personally and corporately. Prayer will help group members let go of their worries and anxieties, and praying for/with each other will be valuable in growing community.

*Tip: In a new group of people who don’t know each other or of new believers who may not be comfortable with prayer, the group leader can come with pre-written prayers and just ask various members to read them out loud. That will help them get used to the concept of praying out loud without being anxious about what to say.


3. Sharing

Sharing personal stories and experiences are what separate a small group from a Bible study. Sharing promotes community, which can be a slow thing to build. Being vulnerable with each other really helps grow the group in affection, understanding, and dependence on each other, and it also helps promote praying for each other and actively caring for each other. It’s important to let details emerge organically, though, rather than forcing people to share. Different personalities will have different willingness to share different levels. Be flexible with what you expect from your members.

*Tip: To help reluctant members figure out what to share, tell them think of these three faith stages: 1. What life was like before you came to faith, 2. The turning point in your life, 3. How faith has made a difference to you.


4. Contributing

Each member should contribute to the upkeep of the group. One person cannot do all of the necessary tasks to keep a group healthy and functioning. They will burn out fast, and the rest of the group will not be as engaged because they have no responsibilities. Lean into each member’s spiritual gifts, and help them grow in confidence in serving the Lord by what they contribute to their small group.

  • Hosting
  • Communication and organization
  • Refreshments
  • Facilitating discussion
  • Keeping prayer list
  • Co-leading
*Tip: Keep in mind the story of Mary & Martha (Luke 10:38-42). The “Marthas” are the ones who are most likely to volunteer to serve the group, but they are also most likely to get overwhelmed and burn out! Help the “Marthas” divide their responsibilities so that everyone contributes.


5. Serving

Serving allows the group’s mindset to expand outside the limits of the meetings. Serving together builds comradery and special bonds between group members, and it also gives group members an opportunity to live out the application of what they have learned in Scripture and their study materials. Be consistent with keeping up your service projects, and make sure to emphasize with your group the purposes of serving – developing compassion, obeying Christ, and growing spiritually.

*Tip: Have the group pray together about what service projects to participate in, and continually be emphasizing that service in the prayer time at your meetings. It will help keep your group members’ hearts and minds engaged in serving Christ through the project.


An intentional group leader who stays focused can really help make their group a powerful place for transformation of the members’ lives and of the community surrounding the group.

Watch a video of a webinar where all these elements are taught below:

8 Goals to Set to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Small Group

Small groups can serve as catalysts for church growth, relational connectivity and powerful discipleship, but goals need to be preset to insure the health of your group.

Here are our Top 8 goals to make your small group more effective:


1. Establish the “Why”

Before doing anything else with your group, sit down and consider WHY your group will be in existence. Are you trying to attract new members to the church, trying to encourage community within the church members, or trying to deepen the faith and discipleship of current members? Or a mix of all three? Are you going to be essentially connected to the church in content and membership, or will you be an independently functioning body? Are we looking for discipleship or just social connections? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but it’s important for expectations to be clear. WHY you are meeting will help determine HOW you meet, and clearly establishing it will avoid frustration down the road.

2. Define Your “Win”

Do you want to grow personal connections? Establish ministry for the church? Do service projects in the community? These are all wins, but what is a win for YOUR group? When you have a “win,” CELEBRATE IT!

3. Define Your Boundaries

A group is defined not only by what it does, but by what it does not do. Make sure your group members understand what you do not do. Consider whether you will provide pastoral care/counseling, visit each other in the hospital, provide resources to members in need, and other things of this nature. Draw the line and make sure that everyone knows where it is. Also, clarify the confidentiality of the group. You need to make the group a safe place for your members to share their hearts and prayer requests, without fear of gossip or people hearing about things that they may not want to be shared publicly.

It might be a good idea to actually have members sign or verbally commit to a written group covenant. Click here to see a sample Small Group Agreement.

4. Define Leadership

Decide what kind of leader you will be and what help you need to recruit. Based on your strengths and the strengths of your members, who will facilitate discussion, organize hosting and refreshment schedules, maintain group communication throughout the week, record prayer requests and praises, etc.? Leaders who teach may need more training or special preparation.

5. Define Membership Expectations

How frequently will your group meet: weekly/bi-weekly/monthly? Will you meet for a specific length of time and then take a break? Will you break for the summer or a holiday season? Regarding attendance, if your group is more social, then the attendance policy could be more flexible to allow relationships to develop naturally. If you will be covering content or a specific program, the commitment to attendance needs to be higher. Also set an expectation about whether or not members need to notify someone when they’re going to miss so that the rest of the group isn’t wondering or worrying. If they miss, maybe they could email out their thoughts about the week’s homework. If anyone borrows the DVD or other material, how/when will they be expected to return it?

6. Decide on Materials

Who will decide on the material to study – the church or the group itself? Are any programs open to be considered, or will you as the leader give the group options to choose between? Who will pay for the materials?

7. Clarify Details

  • What kind of refreshments will be offered? Who will provide or coordinate it?
  • What about childcare?
  • Will you rotate hosts, stay at the same home for each meeting, or meet at the church?

8. Establish Your Leadership Style

Know that your leadership style is up to you, but keep in mind that good organization, people skills and problem solving abilities are needed to lead a great small group. If you don’t naturally have these qualities, recruit some helpers to keep you on track!

Give your group time to get established. Be patient and consistent in guiding your group according to the goals you have set, and you’ll soon see it headed toward the “win” you have decided to aim for!


Watch a 50-minute webinar that presents this information below:

Ready, Set, Grow… Your Small Group

Making the decision to lead a small group can bring both excitement and uncertainty to the first-time leader. Once you’ve decided that you are willing to lead a small group, here are the steps to take in getting your group off the ground.

First Things First

You first need to consider your own desires as a leader. What kind of group do you want to have? Determine in what circumstances you can best lead your group.

  • Location: Where would be most convenient for you? Do you want the group to always meet at your home, find a different location, or rotate between group members’ homes?
  • When to Meet: Look ahead on your own calendar for the next 6-10 weeks, and select the time and day of the week that you can be most available to lead your group consistently. When groups are just getting started, it’s essential for the leader to always be there, because you may not have yet identified others who are willing to step in as a substitute.
  • Group Type: Do you want your group to be focused only on people in the same stage of life, or do you want a good mix of people from across the spectrum of believers? (Married vs. single, no kids vs. young kids vs. older kids, all one gender or mixed genders, etc.) What kind of group do you think you could lead best?
  • Open or Closed: Do you want to open up membership to anyone, or do you want to just invite people personally through word of mouth?

Promoting Your Group

Using this diagram can help you brainstorm who you can invite to join your group

If you decide you want to open your group membership up to anyone, you need to get the word out to let people know you’re starting your group. Consider using a church bulletin/signup sheet, church website/Facebook page, invite people personally and ask them to spread the word. Be enthusiastic, and be prepared to explain to people WHY you’re wanting to start a group. You’ll find that many times groups have more long-term stability if it is composed of people who have invited their friends, but God can also build wonderful community among people who didn’t know each other before. Also, ask your pastor/priest to announce your group at a weekend worship service. People will pay more attention if they hear it from a leader’s mouth. Most importantly, pray for God to bring the right people to your group so that lives can be impacted in the most meaningful way. You’ll quickly find that there’s nothing more rewarding than experiencing life change with other people.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than experiencing life change with other people.”


Strategize Together How to Grow

Once your core group meets a few times, discuss potential for growth together. How big do you want the group to be? Decide on a target number of participants. Will you allow new members to join at any time, or will you temporarily close to new members so that you can go more in-depth with each other and with the Bible? Being open to new members can allow you to have more of a missionary mindset, but being closed can provide you more depth in discipleship. You need to decide together what you want your group to be.

Then decide together what materials you will study, something that everyone in the group can get excited about. Be careful not to pick something too in-depth or complex if you have people who don’t know each other well or are new believers. Start light and work up to more challenging as your group matures together.

Get to Know Each Other

It is important that everyone be comfortable and that you establish your group as a fun place that people want to come to. If your group members don’t already know each other, allow the first meeting or two to just be social gatherings. No pressure. Serving God and growing in your faith is FUN!

What’s Next?

Be patient and give your group time to build trust. A solid small group isn’t built in a day. Pray for each other. Enjoy being together. Slowly open up about your personal stories and faith walks. The rewards will be tremendous!


Watch a 50-minute video of a webinar presenting all this content below.

To Be or Not to Be… A Small Group Leader

Are you interested in Small Group ministry, but would like to know more about its purpose and how to be a good leader? Read on for an outline of the who, what, and why for starting a small group!

  1. Why Small Groups?  Because Life IS Better Connected!
    • God created us to be in relationship with one and other.
    • Small group provides an environment where life change can occur.
    • Small group is a safe place for fellowship, prayer, studying God’s Word, and accountability.
    • Small group helps us grow our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
    • Being in community on a small scale provides comfort on the larger, corporate scale.
  1. Why YOU should consider hosting or leading a small group
    • 1 Corinthians 3:6 says some will plant seeds, others will water, but God makes the seeds grow.  Churches NEED more people to plant and water.
    • Hosting or leading a small group gives you the privilege of serving the church and the members in your group in a meaningful way.
    • The rewards of leading a small group are great!
  1. Understanding your role as a small group leader – what qualities are needed?
    • The small group leader’s role is to provide vision, to direct, and to support the group.
    • We encourage growth in 3 areas:
      1. Growth with God
      2. Growth in our community with other believers
      3. Growth in our influence on others
    • The small group leader must have a desire to be in community.
    • He/She must be in a personal relationship with Christ.
    • The small group leader should believe that the Bible is our final authority in faith.
    • The leader should have the time, emotional capacity, and the moral discernment to lead.
  1. What are the expectations of a Small Group Leader?
    • Facilitate – don’t teach….monitor and promote participation with your members.
    • Commit to your growth as a small group leader – read blogs, listen to podcasts, subscribe to newsletters that speak to small group development.
    • Identify an apprentice or “helper” to lead with you – this is key to staying fresh. Have your helper take on administrative tasks, take turns hosting, and share in facilitating.
  1. Getting Started!
    • Recruiting members – promote through the church and through personal connections.
    • Establish location – keep in mind that location can be SO important.
    • Establish day & time.
    • What is the overlying theme of the group – if any?
    • Discuss group covenant – confidential, commitment to attending regularly, term of the group etc.

View a video of a 40-minute webinar presenting this information below:

Sustaining Small Groups Through Multiple Seasons

Now that you have gotten a small group ministry launched during the season of Lent, there is an uncertain time approaching when the first small group Bible study series ends. You need to be intentional and strategic with a plan for how to continue your groups into the next season. On Tuesday, March 8, 2016 The Rev. Charlie Holt, with guest speakers Allen White and Theresa Summerlin, shared best practices for intentionally sustaining groups from one season to the next with new study materials and fresh inspiration. Watch a recording of the session above.

To download a copy of the PowerPoint used for the webinar here.