7 Tips for Designing & Supporting Effective Small Groups

7 Tips for Designing & Supporting Effective Small Groups

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The origins of the Church are rooted in small gatherings of believers in people’s homes to worship, encourage, and share the Gospel.

This vision of intentional community carries over from the early days of the Church, but it’s true that there are unique complexities to bringing people together in an intentional way in our modern world.

Small groups have come a long way since they first gained popularity in their current form in the modern-day church. As church leaders, it’s important to provide guidance and support to help your church’s small groups be an effective aspect of your ministry, guiding people into deeper study of God’s Word and deeper community.

As you seek to help more people join a group and support the leaders of those groups, here are a few tips for designing and supporting effective small groups that you won’t want to skip:

1. Share the WHY for small groups.

Every next step starts with answering the question, “Why?” Without that, asking someone to join a small group is just asking them to make their busy schedule busier. Why does this matter? Why do groups exist?

In your ministry, what is the unique “why” that makes groups valuable for your congregation and community? There is no set format or vision you have to have for your small groups, but you will want to take some time to clearly communicate your church’s purpose for having and promoting small groups as a primary next step.

From here, make sure this is communicated to leaders, small group members, and from the pulpit. People are more likely to get involved when they can get behind the vision and purpose of small groups, and understand why this is a valuable next step for them to prioritize.

2. Make next steps clear.

Once you have communicated the WHY, next we need to clearly communicate the HOW. If you have helped someone see the value joining a group would have in their life, is there a clear, frictionless process to getting started? Is it understood where they sign-up or who they talk to?

This may seem “obvious,” but don’t miss this. People are busy, and we need to make sure it’s easy for them to take an important next step in our discipleship process.

Where do you need to improve the clarity of how someone can take their next step with small groups?

3. Equip your leaders.

It’s important to provide tools and resources to help your small group leaders be the most effective at leading their individual groups. Because small groups are intended to build a deeper connection between members of your congregation, your leader may find themselves navigating some tough topics at times.

Have you equipped them effectively? Do they understand the expectations and who they can go to when they have questions? Do they have training about how to effectively perform their role? Have you invested in who they are as leaders?

These are great questions to consider as you empower leaders to help those you shepherd grow closer to Christ and one another. Their role is crucial!

4. Be available but not overbearing.

Be available to give guidance, make suggestions, and even feedback on how each small group is doing. You may even plan to visit each small group once or twice a year to see how things are going and provide any help they may need.

But, balance this carefully to avoid being overbearing or over-controlling. Small groups are primarily about building relationships and that can happen in a variety of ways. Resist the urge to want group time to be overly structured or to fit a certain mold. We want to provide space for connection and bonding to occur naturally, trusting that God will reward the faithful efforts of the leaders and the group as a whole.

5. Connect the small group curriculum back to the current teaching series.

Whenever possible, it’s valuable to connect the curriculum small groups are working through back to either the churchwide vision or your current sermon series. This is a great way to go deeper into what was taught on Sunday morning and even discuss how the text relates back to each person’s individual life. You may consider providing a discussion guide to leaders that helps explore key Scriptures even further.

This provides an outline for time spent as a group that can be valuable in keeping that time focused, but this also ensures that your congregation is growing together each week. 

6. Share stories of meaningful community.

Depending on each person’s church background, most people won’t participate in small groups without promptings. Lifeway Research reported that about 45% of current worship attendees were involved in a small group or additional class. That means over 50% of the people in your church are likely not connected to the church body outside of your Sunday services.

By sharing meaningful stories from small groups and the lasting connections made there, you can help encourage involvement throughout your church. Stories are a great way to cast vision and communicate truth in a personal way, so use this tool as often as you can in your messaging about small groups!

7. Manage your groups effectively. 

Do you know how many groups you have? Their attendance rate? Average size? If your answer was “no” to any of these questions, you may want to consider how you are managing your groups. It’s important to know this kind of information so you know when to add more leaders, how effective your groups are, and how you can strategically support your leaders to improve group life.

You can track all this and more using One Church Software’s Small Groups feature. Through this feature, leaders can keep track of group attendance and even start discussions with all the members of their group. You’ll be able to see attendance and meeting information with the click of a button.


Small groups are a great way to help people connect, grow together, and support one another. However, to have effective groups, we as church leaders must help design the purpose of the groups, support leaders well, and communicate clearly how our people can get involved.

Do you need a church management system that can help you communicate with your congregation, organize volunteers, and lead efficiently? You can try One Church Software FREE for 30 days to see all the ways it can help you care for your members, empower your volunteers, and serve your community.

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