The challenge is real. I chuckle every time I talk to a ministry who is launching small groups. The challenge is the same. A 4th Grade Boys Small Group Leader is handed a clipboard.

“Write down the names of all the kids who attend your group this week.”

At the end of the service, he has 8 boy’s names. He comes back next week and he’s handed the same clipboard. This time his list of eight is typed out with boxes beside each name and blank spaces under those names.

“Just check off the kids who are here today. Add any new kids in the blank spaces.”

At the end of the service, he checked 3 boxes and wrote down six new names.

Fast forward six weeks. The small group leader is a little overwhelmed. He only had 8-12 kids every week, but there are now 43 names on his list. 43! What is he supposed to do with 43 kids? Are they all in his group? What is expected of him with all 43 of these boys?

If this church use the On Deck Groups Model, the regular kids would be identified and placed into 1-2 permanent groups. The remaining kids would fall into an On Deck Group each week. However, there’s another way to skin this cat (sorry to all you cat lovers).

Integrated Group Model

The Integrated Group Model would tell the 4th Grade Boys Leader that he’s doing just fine. The reality is that a hundred or more kids may drift through your group in a year. However, there are 8-10 that we want you to focus on. There are 8-10 that we want you to build a relationship with. In any giving week, you’re going to see 3-5 of them. Celebrate them and continue to build that relationship, but create a welcoming environment for the guests in your group this week. It could be that one of them might become a permanent part of your group in the coming weeks.

The Integrated Group Model is the model I’ve lead for the last decade at two different ministries. Although our leaders take attendance in their group, it’s primarily for safety/evacuation reasons. We encourage our leaders to create a great group experience every week, regardless of who attends. However, every month we update their groups. We’ll provide the birthday, address and parent contact information for the 8-10 kids who regularly attend. We’ll also run attendance reports and add kids who “become” regulars. We’ll also notify the leaders of kids who haven’t been in a while so that they can follow up.

It’s also an interesting model. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this model.

Pros of The Integrated Group Model

  • Visiting kids and infrequently attending kids get a taste of a relational group every time they visit
  • Visiting kids and infrequently attending kids can become a permanent member of the group they first attended once they attend more frequently
  • Every Small Group Leader has the opportunity to build his own group from the kids who visit. Being consistent and reaching out to parents is a sure way to group regular attendees
  • Groups at service times are fairly balanced. Visiting kids can always be placed in the smallest group keeping all groups fairly even

Cons of The Integrated Group Model

  • It feels a little messy. Small Group Leaders can be overwhelmed by the number of possible kids in their group.
  • Really good leaders tend to grow their groups a little too big. This is a good thing, but you’ll have to figure out how to divide the group into two healthy groups
  • You need good systems in place (reports/attendance tracking) to keep track of who is coming regularly, who is become less regular and who is becoming more sporadic.

Personally, I prefer Integrated groups. I feel that there are more pros to the integrated model and it seems to work well at the ministries I’ve led. It just takes a little more time to explain how it works for a new small group leader, helping them to understand what it means to focus on a few while they create an inviting space for the many.