Small bible study groups are becoming quite prevalent within churches. People feel more supported when there is a niche ministry they get to be a part of beyond the weekly general sermon at their church. They get to be involved more with their church-mates and even help each other out when times are tough. But how are these small groups started, and how can they gain the support of the church?
David Brandt presented some great questions to our Facebook group that ponder this exact issue.
“How does your church handle situations where someone in your congregation wants to start their own Bible study or niche ministry? Do you distinguish between different levels of ministries…such as ministries that are overseen and run by the church vs. ones that are run by individuals but looked favorably upon by the church? Do you advertise ministries of the second type? Just curious how you all handle something like that.”
Here is some of the advice that our group members had to offer:
“No one is allowed to be affiliated with leading a ministry unless they have gone through the proper training process. If someone starts a study and has not… it will not be associated with the church. We make no apologies.” – Nelda Wheat
“We have ‘small groups’ …The pastor reaches out and asks if anyone has a small group they would like to form, but it’s all under the umbrella of the church.” – Stacey Brunson Lebitz
“Connect Groups! We take a free-market approach to our small groups, so nearly any interest is a potential group. Our senior pastor has the final say on any Bible study, prayer, or recovery group leaders, and all leaders must have completed our new member orientation and attend group leader training each semester. We are a church of 500.” – Holly Weber
“We believe in releasing people to ministry and coming alongside to give support. If something is off, we deal with it, but overall this has worked well for us as: a church of 200.” – Gail Vaughn Wallace
“It’s taken a while, but we’re finally all comfortable telling people that we welcome them to do any ministry or Bible study that they choose (within our beliefs, of course)… but we only advertise things that fall under one of our ministry teams.” – Hannah Speaker Myers
“We base most of our ‘small groups’ off of what people want to start. It works outstandingly – we have groups that are deep, and others just treading water. People are great at finding what fits their life situation.” – JT Trombly
“Provide a structure where people can apply to run groups on a special topic, then ask them to apply. That way you aren’t green-lighting things without reviewing them first, and the process is fair and defined, not arbitrary.” – Curtis Griesel
To sum it all up, people in your church will eventually want to create a small group. As church leaders, we must step up to guide them, especially if they want the support of the church. The whole process should be Gospel-centered, focusing on the main goal of the church. It’s also great for churches to have an application process for people to start their small groups and have them go through a qualification process. Don’t be afraid of these small groups and individually run ministries. Just be sure to apply an organized process.