During the COVID-19 pandemic, many churches have been turning to the power of small groups to build connections and serve communities while we have not been gathering in-person for worship services.
Small groups have been meeting online and outdoors. They provide a faith community to journey with through life, grow in faith, and serve God’s kingdom. In these times of disconnection, small groups are the backbones of our churches and the lifelines for our church members.
As more folks are seeking new ways of connecting with others and their faith, now is the time to grow your small group ministry.
The NC Conference Media Center recommends the following:
- Books that will teach you how to grow your small group ministry
- Training for small group leaders
- Training for small group members
- Spiritual practices for small groups
- Study ideas for your small groups
How to Grow Your Small Group Ministry
Grab Gather Grow: Multiply Community Groups in Your Church by Jim and Jennifer Cowart. Learn how the authors used adaptive systems, digital tools, and flexible overhead to expand their United Methodist congregation from 76 community groups to over 250 in just seven years. The book and 30-minute training video include the following themes: Group Explosion, Overcoming Obstacles, The Power of the Pulpit, Living the 5 through Group Life, Creating Infrastructure for Facilitators.
The Connected Life: Small Groups That Create Community by Jacob Armstrong with Rachel Armstrong. This handy and helpful guide describes how churches can set up, maintain, and nurture small groups to create a congregation that is welcoming and outward-looking. Read our extended review of the book.
Leading Small Groups That Thrive: Five Shifts to Take Your Group to the Next Level by Ryan T. Hartwig, Courtney W. Davis, and Jason A. Sniff. Based on a large-scale research study, this book shows step by step, how to plan for, launch, build, sustain, and multiply highly effective, transformational, healthy small group experiences where people grow spiritually together.
How to Start Small Groups: Growing Larger by Acting Smaller by Brad Kalajainen. Small group ministry will begin when the key leadership of a church decides that it must become part of the church culture. The pastor and key lay leaders must be willing to articulate the goal publicly over and over again. The whole purpose of launching such a ministry is to help people connect to God in a deeper way by sharing their spiritual walks with each other. This PDF booklet can be downloaded for free from Discipleship Ministries of The UMC.
Training for Group Leaders
Gather Us In: Leading Transformational Small Groups by Angela D. Schaffner. The church can become a place where people want to run to instead of away from during times of suffering. Small groups offer a safe space for individuals to connect meaningfully with one another, and they also provide an environment where relational healing can begin. This comprehensive guide to leading small groups provides eight strategies for leading transformative small groups, dispels common myths about leading groups, and helps readers understand how groups work and the life stages of a group. The author suggests practical ways to lead groups effectively, using examples from scripture of how Jesus worked to transform people spiritually and emotionally.
The Methodist Class Leader DVD/CD Video Toolkit by David Lowes Watson. This study draws on the extensive work of Dr. David Lowes Watson, a leading scholar of Methodist history and an advocate for the revitalization of the office of class leader to provide a more intentional approach to faith formation and accountable discipleship in today’s church. The study is designed for use in adult classes or small group settings.
Leading Life-Changing Small Groups Video Study by Bill Donahue. Regardless of whether a person is leading for the first time or has been doing so for years, these sessions will enable them to more effectively facilitate group discussion and to encourage and support group members in a way that leads to authentic and lasting life change. Sessions highlight the requirements and responsibilities of a small group leader, provide helpful insight into the process of group formation, and answer practical questions about meeting preparation and how to encourage group participation.
Small Group Leader Training Guide by Phil Maynard. Help your small group leaders know… Why? the small group is such an important piece of the discipleship process, What? constitutes an effective small group experience, How? to lead transformational small groups, including meeting design, Facilitation skills, using a coaching approach and much more… When? Small groups should multiply and how to make it happen. This resource is full of practical ideas for developing effective small group leaders and a strong small group ministry.
The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker. At a time when coming together is more important than ever, Parker sets forth a human-centered approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences. She investigates a wide array of gatherings–conferences, meetings, a courtroom, a flash-mob party, an Arab-Israeli summer camp–and explains how simple, specific changes can invigorate any group experience. The Art of Gathering will forever alter the way you look at your next meeting, industry conference, dinner party, and backyard barbecue–and how you host and attend them.
Training for Group Members
One: A Small Group Journey Toward Life-Changing Community by Nick Cunningham with Trevor Miller. Although One is a small-group study written to cover an eight-week session, its larger purpose is for participants of the group to embrace meaningful relationships with their fellow Christ-followers and to continue to meet together, lifting each other up, pushing each other forward, and sending each other out—indefinitely.
Making Your Small Group Work by Henry Cloud, Bill Donahue, and John Townsend. In this DVD study, the authors provide four sixty-minute sessions to train leaders and group members in the foundational values and practices of becoming a life-changing community. The study helps leaders to create strong relationships and promote the kind of in-depth discussion that will help everyone grow in their spirituality.
Wiser Together: Learning to Live the Right Way by Bill Hybels. In this five-session video-based Bible study, Bill Hybels challenges you to make doing life together a priority, exploring from the book of Proverbs how experiencing community and growing in wisdom are inseparably linked and offering practical direction on how to experience this with others. This study is designed with both new and experienced group leaders in mind. For new leaders, it includes optional weekly DVD training sessions to help them lead a fantastic, first-time small group experience. For experienced leaders, it includes a ‘Going Deeper’ section for those ready to take this content to the next level.
Spiritual Practices in Groups
Spiritual Practices in Community: Drawing Groups Into the Heart of God by Diana Shiflett. In this personal, hands-on guide, Shiflett walks us through a wide array of spiritual practices, from communal silence and Scripture meditation to active prayer and corporate discernment. She proves a reliable guide, offering step-by-step instructions, pointing out hazards and pitfalls, and sharing her own experiences with honesty and humor.
When You Pray as a Small Group by Rueben P. Job and Sally D. Sharpe. This resource will help leaders guide their groups through developing a deeper prayer life. Leaders are provided with prayer activity ideas, example sessions, and five session templates for groups with different needs and interests: Discussion-based groups, Activity-based groups, Introspective groups, Arts-focused groups, Habit Breaker groups.
Connecting to God: Nurturing Spirituality through Small Groups by Corinne Ware. Ware provides a very practical and accessible model of spiritual formation for self-directing groups that can be led by clergy or laity. Includes thorough guidelines, dos and don’ts, and ground rules for the successful pursuit of spiritual growth in small groups.
Studies for Your Groups
The NC Conference Media Center has hundreds of DVD and book studies that you can borrow for use in your small groups. Check out our For Small Group Leaders page to get study ideas, access our online catalog, and join our community.
You can more easily browse the studies we have available by format and topic in the Genre Collections section of our online catalog.
We also posted ideas specifically for groups that are meeting online. Check out Study Ideas for Your Online Small Group to get recommendations for:
- Christian video studies online
- Bible study app
- Online classes
- Books for discussion
- And more
For a complete list of our resources on growing and strengthening your small group ministry, visit our Small Group Ministry pathfinder.
Request These Resources
These resources can be borrowed for free by anyone involved with a United Methodist Church in the North Carolina Conference. We will mail them to your home! All you need to do is fill out the Resource Request Form.