A few years ago my parents came to visit for the holidays. Feeling nostalgic, I decided to pull out a “family fun activity” that brought back childhood holiday memories – the classic 1000 piece puzzle. Convinced that everyone would be as excited as I was, I staked my claim to the kitchen table and dumped out all 1000 pieces of this Thomas Kincaid-like puzzle. I set the box top on the corner to serve as our guide and got to work.

My parents were amused. I toiled over the puzzle for hours while they’d graciously stop by for a few minutes here and there, helping me find a piece or two. Completing the border alone was the most maddening process, pieces seemed to propagate overnight. Yet piece by piece it finally came together.

It took three weeks. Three weeks! One week longer than my parents’ visit. More than two weeks longer than I had imagined.

I’d love to say the completed puzzle was beautiful. It wasn’t. I laughed at my determination to complete something that ultimately looked a little ridiculous. The only thing left to do was to break it apart, put it back in the box to remain until I finally decide to get rid of it.

If you’d asked me at the onset how long it would take me to complete, I would have said 3 days. This thing? No problem. However, 3 days in it was abundantly clear this was going to take far more time and energy than I had thought.

I felt the same way when it came to building a healthy small group culture in my church. At the onset, I thought this might take a year to get the right systems in place. Maybe just a year to get the organizational structure right. Just a year to get all the people right where I needed them. But changing culture is something entirely different. Changing culture extends far beyond systems and structure. One year in, it was very clear this would take far more time than I had imagined.

Looking back on the transition, there were some specific steps we took to establishing the small group culture we have today. Though we are still on the journey, there were three definite pivot points that established the foundation for our current small group culture. If you and I sat down today over a cup of coffee, I’d describe these same pivots as foundational shifts to build a small group culture:

  • Know the Bullseye
  • Shifting Perspectives
  • Defining the Win

Make no mistake, building a strong and healthy small group culture is a massive undertaking. It will take far longer than you think and will constantly challenge your resolve. However, establishing a healthy small group culture is a noble pursuit. I can think of few things I’d rather invest my time in. Over the next few days, I’m going to walk you through each of these three pivots, shifts you can implement in your ministry to build the small group culture that needs to exist in your church.