This week we talked all about building a healthy small group culture. We talked about this transition, which can actually take years. However, there are a few things you should know as you begin to build a new culture of your own.

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

It’s a funny saying, but an idea worth taking to heart. Peter Drucker coined the phrase, but Mark Fields, the president at Ford, made it famous. We have said a lot of things about creating small groups for kids.

  • Practical things.
  • Logistics.
  • How-To Guides.
  • Tips

Strategy. All of this is necessary. But don’t underestimate your culture. All your strategy won’t amount to anything if your volunteers don’t share the value of this new direction. All your processes will fail if your leaders don’t have buy in. Prioritize the building of your culture. You can actually start on that right now.

Words have Power

If you’re going to build this new culture, you’re going to need a new language. Strategy only works with certain kinds of people.  There are people who think logistically and with a systems mindset. They’ll love your new strategy. But there are so many people who don’t think this way. They need to feel. They need enlightenment. The right words will turn their world upside down.

As you begin to build a new culture, expect to spend a lot of time talking. You’re going to be sharing coffee, breakfasts, lunches, and whenever else you can get with your volunteers. It’s going to be your responsibility to tell a better story. Don’t just tell them why you’re changing everything. Talk about why you do what you do now. Explore the challenges. Discover the obstacles. Unpack the things that “should be.” They need to go on the journey and DISCOVER something better – and you’re the guide.

Give them words. Say them often enough and you’ll eventually hear them saying it. I’ve borrowed heavily from “Lead Small” when developing a common language at my church. These are some of the phrases you’ll hear my coaches and small group leaders saying often (because they hear us saying them often).

  • Create a Safe Place
  • Partner with Parents
  • Be Present: Show up Predictably
  • Be Present: Show up Randomly
  • They aren’t going to remember what you say, they’ll remember how they felt when they were with you

Use words strategically and with purpose and you’ll see the culture begin to shift.

It Happens Fast

Wait, didn’t we just say that this all takes years? Yes, it does. However, it doesn’t take very long to start to see results worth getting excited about. I’m 9 months into a transition in our elementary ministry. I took over all responsibility for K-3rd grade in November. It took me two months to find/raise up two really great coaches. In January, the two coaches began leading all the small group leaders at one service. For the next 3-4 months, we developed new systems and processes. We tweaked things almost every week. During this time, we continued to recruit more coaches. In April, we launched 5 more coaches for another K-3rd service and two services for our 4th-6th grade. Every time we added a coach, everything got significantly better for small group leaders. It was a direct relationship. In September, we re-launched small group in elementary. We now had 56 small groups where every group had a defined (weekly) leader and every leader had the names, birthdates, and parent contact info for their kids. All of this took nine months and it’s been very, very exciting. Small group leaders are coming to life. It’s easier to recruit than ever before. Coaches carry significant weight through strong leadership. Groups in elementary are really good, but it’s going to take another year before I’ll say they’re great.

However, this is just elementary. Preschool is next. I had to get elementary going before I dove into preschool. It will take another 9-12 months to get preschool where elementary is now. Altogether, this is going to take 3-4 years to have something really healthy. It’s a lot of hard work and it requires a lot of patience.

BUT, it doesn’t take long to start to see results. It doesn’t take much time to see your people getting excited about something that’s really exciting. Pull the trigger and get things moving. It’s a LONG journey. It’s a HARD journey. However, it’s really fun to see it get better and better every week. The benefits materialize pretty quickly.