Building the healthy small group culture we have today wasn’t rocket science, but it wasn’t completely obvious either. I’d like to say that we knew exactly what we were doing every step of the way, but that wouldn’t exactly be true. Things would happen that we didn’t expect and we would adjust the process. More often than not, our biggest obstacle in building something better was the human element. Go figure, right? It was often behavioral and engrained mindsets that we often didn’t anticipate. Regardless, we adjusted and pushed through. Our success truly did revolve around these three pivot points:

  • Know the Bullseye
  • Shifting Perspectives
  • Defining the Win

Today, we’re going to wrap this up with the final pivot point.


This third pivot took more time to uncover that we anticipated. It also happens to be the one drum we continue to beat, even now. What’s the win?

Let’s face it. Our small group leaders are volunteers who live busy lives. The same is probably true of your small group leaders. Their desire is to serve well and to meet the expectations that you place in front of them. It’s actually human nature. This is an interesting thought, don’t miss it. Every week they serve, you place something in front of them, right?  Whether it’s a preschool, elementary, middle or high, we put something in the hands of a small group leader to equip and empower them to lead their group well.


In preschool and elementary, that curriculum is usually comprised of activities. Games, crafts or experiments designed to keep a kids’ attention and communicate a point. This is a powerful truth we learned the hard way. In the absence of any other message, our small group leaders assumed that completing the activities was the primary goal.

Let that sink in for a second. You probably have leaders that think exactly the same way. Your small group leaders have curriculum composed of several pieces of paper. They probably have a bin of supplies that go along with the curriculum. Whether it’s 3 activities of 4, your small group leader may equate success with completing every activity. No waste. Let’s be efficient. You and I know that this isn’t success, right?

Every week, I would make my way around our environments and engage with small group leaders after services, I’d ask some intentional questions.

“Tell me what activity really captured their attention?
On a scale of 1-5, how would you rate group time today?

I wanted to be intentional about the questions I ask knowing my questions can lead and shape the way volunteers view their role. However, when a small group leader would rate their group time high, their rationale had more to do with the quantity of activities completed rather than the quality of conversation the activities provoked.

Eureka! Lightbulb moment! I finally saw something I’d never seen before. In the absence of any other defined win, small group leaders defaulted to what we put in their hands. The win became the activities. I realized that I needed to become a constant and repeating voice that communicated one simple truth into the hearts and minds of my small group leaders. Like a drum, over and over again.

The win is not finishing the activities but starting conversations.

I trained my coaches to end every meeting with one final statement: Success in small groups is not how many activities you complete, but how many conversations you begin. YES! This was it!

This may seem small, but it was a pivot point that paid off in HUGE dividends. Suddenly our small group leaders were recounting stories about conversations they had with their kids. Post-group ratings had less to do with completing activities and more to do with funny one-liners, curious questions or sweet prayer requests kids would share. It had become about relationships – which was right smack dab in the center of our bullseye.

We are 5 years into this journey of establishing a healthy small group culture. Like building anything (including cheesy holiday-themed 1o00 piece puzzles) I wasn’t sure it would come together. There were moments of sincere frustration. However, these pivot points were critical to shifting our culture. We’ve created a relational ministry where everything points to small groups. Success is measured by the quality of relationships in each group.

I’m convinced that the pivot points that helped us shift to a healthy small group culture are the pivot points that could help your ministry.  Know your bullseye. Put small groups in the center and work out how everything else connects to it. Shift the perspective of your volunteers and leaders. They probably don’t see things the way you see them. Communicate your perspective until everyone sees where you’re headed. Finally, define the win for everyone involved. Give them something by which they can measure their success.