by Cheryl Shireman
The Small Group Network was created by Steve Gladen so that nobody doing Small Group Ministry ever has to stand alone. To accomplish this, we connect Small Group Pastors/Directors of North America to each other. Churches of various sizes and of various denominations are represented in the SGN. Our goal is to connect these leaders to each other so that they may build relationships and encourage one another through sharing resources and ideas. We do this through a variety of ways: this monthly newsletter, our new SGN website (www.smallgroupnetwork.com), conference calls, gatherings at small group conferences, webcasts (more on that soon!), and local huddles.
We hear so many wonderful stories of Small Group Pastors who were overwhelmed and ready to quit ministry before connecting to the SGN. For many, the SGN has become a lifeline – a source of support and information that sustains their ministry. As the network continues to grow and we move forward, we want to ensure that every member feels connected, encouraged, and supported. The SGN, however, is only as strong as its members. Many areas are thriving and holding monthly huddles (even weekly!) and members describe those huddles as “the best part of my month”. One of our leaders told us, “You couldn’t pay me to miss these meetings. Well, you could, but it would take a lot of money!”. That is the experience we want for everyone! So, this article will look at some suggestions on how you can improve your network experience and become a stronger network member.
Member: Our members are the men and women who run the Small Group Ministry in their church. You are probably over-worked and under-paid (or not paid at all!) and passionately believe in small groups. Perhaps you have the support of your Lead Pastor, perhaps you don’t. But you know that you have the support of God, and even if you feel overwhelmed at times, sometimes you can’t help but think, “I can’t believe I get to do this.” At other times, you just want to quit. How can YOU be a better SGN member?
Attend your huddles. When your Local Leader sends out an email telling you about the upcoming huddle, mark it on your calendar! Just like a small group, if you don’t make attendance a priority, it just won’t happen. There will always be an excuse to NOT attend. Satan does not want you to have the support of your peers. He wants you to remain in isolation. Don’t let him win that battle. Whatever it takes, attend that huddle!
Communicate with your Local Leader. Like you, your Local Leader already has a full plate and is trying to serve you and the SGN along with all of his or her other duties. Don’t wait for him or her to contact you, contact them. If you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask. If you have a suggestion, give it. Maybe you would love to know what others are doing about training their leaders. If so, let your Local Leader know this. Suggest that one of your huddles be devoted to this topic (or whatever topic is close to your heart right now). Your input will always be welcomed.
Communicate with other members in your network. Be sure to update your email address book with the members of your huddle. Put their phone numbers in your cell phone. And don’t wait for huddles to connect with each other. Feel free to contact each other with questions you have about small group ministry. Every person who has joined this network has done so because they want to ask other leaders questions and they want to share resources. Keep this in mind, and don’t hesitate to build those relationships!
Local Leader: Chances are, you heard about the SGN through a friend or at a conference and you thought, this is a great idea! You enthusiastically joined and could not wait to start your local network. And maybe you did immediately. And you are having monthly huddles and you are so excited about the people you have met and how quickly your network is growing. Or maybe you still haven’t gotten around to having that first huddle. You just can’t seem to find the time, or you had one huddle and no one showed up! Wherever you are in your journey, your reason for joining the SGN is valid. This is a great idea, and we need you to make it happen. You are the backbone of the SGN. If you are not having huddles in your local area, then the members there are not being connected. It is as simple as that. How can YOU be a better SGN member?
Think small. Sometimes, the thought of having a “huddle” is overwhelming. Don’t let it be. A huddle requires very little planning. In fact, we have created Huddle Helps for those of you who like to have a topic for your huddles. Huddle Helps are on the website HERE and are questions centered around a topic that you can send out to your members ahead of time. Schedule your huddle and be sure to put it on the churchteams website. If you do not know how to do this, contact Jay Daniell, our SGN Database Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will walk you through it. It is very simple. As that huddle date draws near, be sure to go to the churchteams website and send out reminder emails to all of the people who have joined your network. This website is always going to be your easiest way to communicate quickly to your network (ask Jay). And remember – if ONE other person shows up for your huddle, then that is the person that God wanted you to huddle with. And if fifty people show up, then you just might need to move to a bigger meeting spot!
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Whether members show up for huddles or not, keep communicating with them. You might want to send out a monthly email letting them know about upcoming huddles (we suggest that you have a huddle at least twice per year), telling them about a recent huddle (what you talked about, etc.), or just sending them a link to a cool resource like a new small group study or a great book. Your emails do not need to be lengthy. The key is to communicate with your members regularly. Let them know that you are there for them, and encourage them to connect with each other. The ten minutes that it takes you to do so will go a long way in connecting your members to you and to each other.
Churchteams is your most effective tool. Whether you are sending out an email to all of your members, advertising the dates of your upcoming huddles, or trying to contact other Local Leaders to get advise on how to run a huddle, churchteams is always going to be the easiest way to do so. Familarize yourself with how it works, and make it work for you! Jay Daniell holds regular conference calls to give you tips on using churchteams. Call Jay Daniell (email@example.com for more info).
Area Leader: You are responsible for one state or one area of a larger state (such as Florida, California, or Texas). You were recruited (probably by a Regional Leader) or you volunteered. And you loved the idea of this network that would connect leaders of Small Group Ministry. What a great idea! And then you went home and looked at how many counties/municipalities are in your area. And maybe you thought, wait a minute, I don’t have time to do this, what was I thinking? Or you never had that thought. You just jumped in with both feet and you are doing it! You are recruiting Local Leaders and your network is growing. Still, you would like to be more effective. How could YOU be a better SGN member?
Get help. Ask for a volunteer at your church to help you with some of the administrative tasks. There is someone who would love to draft monthly emails or recruit new Local Leaders. Turn them loose and give them the opportunity to serve.
Know the condition of your network. Are your Local Leaders having huddles? By “Browsing Networks” at the churchteams website, you can easily measure the strenth of your network. Under “Group Description” every one of your networks should have an upcoming huddle date listed. If they do not, drop your Local Leader an email or call them and ask how you can assist them to get their huddles up and running. Sometimes it might be just as simple as reminding them a huddle can be as simple as some Small Group Pastors meeting for coffee to talk shop. If huddles are not happening, your people are not meeting. As in Small Group Ministry, it is not enough to have small groups, those groups must be meeting regularly.
One call a week. Like most of us, your main issue is time. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. So, think about how you can be the most intentional with the time that you do have. Put the phone numbers of your Local Leaders into your cell phone. On the way home from work, once a week (or every night if you really want to rock that network!), give one of your Local Leaders a call. Ask them how things are going, how are the kids, how is the weather, and ask if there is any way that you can serve them. Building these relationships is the most intentional (and valuable) use of your time.
Regional Leader: You are responsible for multiple states, or multiple areas within a large state (such as Florida, California, and Texas). Someone recruited you. Probably Steve. You were honored and excited. For about a day. And then you started thinking, how in the world am I going to do this? Or maybe you are an early adopter and you were off and running – your network has a Facebook page and you Twitter regularly to everyone in your network. You communicate to your Regional Leaders at least once a month. Everybody is “in the loop” and things are cooking! Or maybe you are still struggling to find leaders for certain geographic areas. Your heart is in the SGN. You are in for the long haul. Because you love small groups (and because we won’t let you out without a fight), and you want everyone to experience the God’s love through God’s people. How can YOU be a better SGN member?
Pray for your network. At some point in every day, for just a few minutes, spend time in prayer for the people in your network and all of the network leaders. Perhaps do so at a time that will be easy to remember (noon, upon waking, when going to sleep, etc.). Just think of the power of bathing all of our members in prayer every day. Make the commitment to do so today.
One call a week. Call your Regional Leaders regularly. The easiest way to do this might be to simply designate a weekly day and time to do so. Every Monday, on your way home from work, give a Regional Leader a call. Get to know them. Ask how you can serve them. Ask how you can pray for them. Love them.
Network with the other Regional Leaders. They are your network support system. Use them. Have a problem with your Small Group Ministry? Ask them how they handled that same problem (they have probably dealt with it, or are dealing with it now). Have your groups just finished a great small group study? Spread the word! Let your peers know about it. Don’t assume they have all the answers, and don’t hesitate to share and support them and ask for their support in return. It is important that you not only do the ministry of the SGN, but also that you allow its members to minister to you too. No matter where you are in ministry, or how large your ministry is, or how many books you have written, it is important that you, too, never stand alone. Let us be here for you, just as you are always here for us.
God, if it is your will, please allow the SGN to continue to grow. Bless its many members and help us all to be better servants to you. Guide us as we all try to build healthy small groups with healthy small group members whose lives honor you. Let us be strong and fearless in serving you. Help us to discern your will. And thank you for loving all of us so very much. Amen.
Cheryl Shireman is the Small Group Network Coordinator.