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The weekend worship experience is undoubtedly the focal point of most of your planning and thinking as a church leader. That’s as it should be, as there is most definitely power in having the people of God gathering together to praise and celebrate. But the real work of helping people become more like Christ — discipleship — happens when smaller groups of believers get together to connect, to serve, and to really experience life together.

I often talk with church leaders who are motivated to strengthen their small group ministries as a means to reduce the number of people who slip out the ‘back door’ of church without truly becoming part of the community. In most cases, they often view volunteering through the same lens. While these are good intentions, they shouldn’t be the core focus of small groups or volunteer strategies. These environments should be first and foremost about making disciples.

Discipleship happens in relationships, in the one-on-one conversations and experiences around what God is doing in and through people. That’s how Jesus taught His disciples, and, so far, I haven’t heard of a better model! Smalls groups and service ministries are where relationships are formed and forged, and where discipleship really happens … but only if you make discipleship a priority.

So, how can you tell if your church is first and foremost about discipleship?

  1. You understand — and talk about — the fact that numbers matter, because you know that you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

  2. You care about taking attendance in small groups because people don’t show up for things that aren’t working.

  3. You track who actually shows up to serve (not just who signed up to serve).

  4. You care about follow-up (with first-time visitors, first time small group members, first-time volunteers and first-time givers).

  5. You are intentional about raising up new leaders, because you know nothing makes us better disciples than discipling others.

  6. You are intentional about leader and volunteer appreciation.

  7. You track volunteer retention because you know that people rarely stop doing something that fulfills them.

As church leaders, we’re charged with helping people become more and more like Jesus. That means we’ve got no better model than Jesus himself in how to teach and disciple people. He spent His three years on earth in one-on-one relationships with his disciples, then told them to go and make disciples of others.

If that’s not your number one goal for your small groups and service ministries, you’re missing out on the tremendous potential for life change that could be happening in your church each and every week.

I had the chance to sit down with some pretty incredible minds to talk about the process of discipleship in our churches today in a recent webinar. Head on over here to listen to Rich Birch and Nathan Artt talk through how churches are redefining discipleship today.

What are the real goals of your small groups and service ministries? How do you know you are succeeding?

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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