The Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry: A Troubleshooting Guide for Church Leaders


Assessment and solution for seven common obstacles to building small groups. It’s one thing to start a small group ministry. It’s another to keep the groups in your church healthy and headed in the same direction. Whatever your church’s approach may be—whether it is a church with groups or of groups— sooner or later, as a leader, you’ll need to do some troubleshooting. That’s when the expert, to-the-point guidance in this book will prove its worth. The beauty of this book lies in its unique diagnostic process. It...

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry

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Assessment and solution for seven common obstacles to building small groups. It’s one thing to start a small group ministry. It’s another to keep the groups in your church healthy and headed in the same direction. Whatever your church’s approach may be—whether it is a church with groups or of groups— sooner or later, as a leader, you’ll need to do some troubleshooting. That’s when the expert, to-the-point guidance in this book will prove its worth. The beauty of this book lies in its unique diagnostic process. It allows you to assess, diagnose, and correct seven common “deadly sins” that can drain the life from your church’s small group ministry. In The Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry, what would take you years to learn through trial and error is distilled into some of the most useful information you can find. Drawing on the knowledge they’ve gleaned from working inside Willow Creek Community Church, from consulting with hundreds of churches, and from conducting conferences and seminars worldwide, small group experts Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson furnish you with proven, real-life solutions to the toughest problems in your small group ministry. This is not theory—it is hands-on material you can read and apply today.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310267119
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Bill Donahue is the author of the bestselling Leading Life-Changing Small Groups, Building a Life-Changing Small Groups Ministy (with Russ Robinson), Coaching Life-Changing Leaders (with Greg Bowman), and the Equipping Life-Changing Small Groups DVD.

Russ Robinson, formerly executive director of small groups at Willow Creek and senior pastor of Meadowbrook Church in North Haledon, New Jersey, is coauthor with Bill Donahue of The Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry. He continues to speak and write while practicing law in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

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Read an Excerpt

Sin One:

Unclear Ministry Objectives

Symptoms of Unclear Ministry Objectives Leaders don't agree on the purpose for small groups The church's road to ministry progress is blocked Relationships are breaking down among those most committed to community Church members expect too much attention from the staff Small groups have a myopic vision and don't know their role in the overall church strategy

It was the meeting to end all meetings. I (Bill) still get a shudder when I think of it. My son was in the Cub Scouts, and a meeting had been called for boys and their parents to attend. We arrived on time and took our place among the eleven boys and fifteen parents who were able to attend.

"Okay, so let's get started," began Kevin, the forty-five-year-old scoutmaster. "It is that time again when we should be thinking about the annual Cub Scout campout. Does anyone have any thoughts?"

"We will need some trucks to carry the garbage out after the boys leave," said one father.

"Why don't we have a different menu than last year?" asked Maria. "I think the boys are getting tired of peanut butter!"

About thirty seconds of silence reigned among us as we gathered in the cluttered church basement where these dreadful meetings were endured. Then seven-year-old Bobby broke the silence.

"What if it rains again? I hate it when it rains."

"You're a wimp!" said Mark, an eight-year-old veteran of camping life, whose speech was often laced with such encouraging words for his fellow Scouts. Others chimed in with their cracks and jokes.

"Okay, calm down. Let's just stay with the program we did last year," the scoutmaster suggested. "It seems like that worked fine." Unless, that is, like our family, you were not involved last year. We had no idea what to expect this year or what had taken place last year as hundreds of young boys invaded the forests of Illinois.

"Last year was great . . ." started young Mike, pausing long enough for Kevin and the parents to think this whole camping experience might actually have some impact, ". . . if you like mosquitoes and mud!" The room erupted in laughter. Little Mike pleaded, "Please don't make us go to the same campground! That place was a swamp!" By now the boys were roaring hysterically and parents were needed to help restore order.

"That's enough boys--settle down. Parents, we need your help with this event. Who would like to volunteer to help this year?" asked Kevin. "We'll need about ten people. Our troop is responsible for organizing the sports equipment and games."

The response was unanimous: fifteen parents sat motionless as they pondered why they had chosen scouting instead of swimming lessons. I could be lounging by the pool, getting a tan, watching my kids frolic in the warm summer sun. Instead I will probably be trudging through a sweltering forest, fending off insect attacks, and struggling to get three hours of sleep in a tent with a group of second graders whose life ambition is to do exactly the opposite of everything I say.

"What about skills? Will the boys learn any skills?" asked Harold. At a Scout camp in 1967 Harold had learned to tie an assortment of knots. "I want my boy to learn something while he's there. Won't they learn to set up a tent, or carve something, or maybe build a fire?" Harold's plea caught Kevin off guard. He was thinking logistics, not skills. He had parents to recruit, not kids to train.

Harold's comment forced me to think. Isn't that what scouting is for? Isn't scouting supposed to train young men in the fine art of frontier survival--to impart skills for fending off wild animals without a weapon, catching fish with their bare hands, and building a log home without an axe? Scout camps should be raising up the next generation of Daniel Boones and Davy Crockets!

"I don't want my son playing with fire," said Linda, who thinks the Cub Scouts are a babysitting service with uniforms. "The last thing I need is to spend all day in the emergency room! Oh, and my son Jimmy has a question. He wants to know if the kids will be allowed to bring video games along."

Sure. And why not a portable refrigerator, a mobile phone, and a laptop computer so he and the boys can keep up with the latest trends in the stock market? So much for developing the next King of the Wild Frontier.

"There will be plenty of safe things for the boys to do," assured a frustrated scoutmaster. "But no video games are allowed. Now, as I was saying, we will need people to plan the activities and supervise the boys at each of the sporting events. Does anyone have a bow and arrow and know how to shoot it?"

At this point in the meeting I wished I had brought one along. This misery had to end, one way or another. Others seemed to share this sentiment. (A few parents in the back of the room were contemplating a game of Russian roulette, several mothers were angry that their husbands were home watching baseball, and the boys--who had crossed the boredom threshold long ago--were beginning to plot the abduction of the scoutmaster one evening at camp.)

Mrs. Peters and her son Jeffrey, late arrivals to the meeting, suggested that all the parents attend the camp and share a tent so they could all "experience scouting firsthand." She was never seen again. Authorities are still looking for her. Well, actually that's not true, but it got pretty close. "Why don't we just skip this year? Nobody has time to take three days off work in the middle of the week to help." A few others nodded. "But then there would be no archery, BB guns, rope swings, or late-night campfire stories" lamented the boys.

And no mosquitoes, no portable toilets, and no muscle cramps, thought the parents.

By this point even our beloved scoutmaster had had about all he could take, so he raised his voice to get everyone's attention. "Look, we have to do this camp--all the other troops will be there, and it will be just fine! Now, who can help?"

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Table of Contents

1. Sin One: Unclear Ministry Objectives ....15
2. Strategies and Tools for Developing Clear Ministry Objectives..33
3. Sin Two: Lack of Point Leadership..49
4. Strategies and Tools for Choosing Effective Point Leaders 63
5. Sin Three: Poor Coaching Structures.75
6. Strategies and Tools for Rebuilding Poor Coaching Structures...89
7. Sin Four: Neglect of Ongoing Leadership Development..101
8. Strategies and Tools for Developing Leaders115
9. Sin Five: Closed Group Mind-Set.127
10. Strategies and Tools for Transforming Group Mind-Set....141
11. Sin Six: Narrow Definition of a Small Group153
12. Strategies and Tools for Broadening the Range of Small Groups ..167
13. Sin Seven: Neglect of the Assimilation Process .185
14. Strategies and Tools for Improving Assimilation199
Appendix 1: Sample Ministry Plans 219
Appendix 2: WCCC Director of Small Groups Job Profile..226
Appendix 3: The Role of the Coach.231
Appendix 4: The Centralized Training Components...232
Appendix 5: Willow Creek Curriculum Series Profiles ...234
Appendix 6: Modified Definition of a Small Group...236
Appendix 7: WCCC Assimilation Process..238
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