7 Solutions to 7 Small Group Struggles

Healthy churches are sustained and expanded through small groups.
— Ed Stetzer, author of Transformational Change

Here are 7 common struggles that small groups face, and 7 real-world solutions for them.

Problem #1: Church leaders are often disconnected from small groups.

Pastors often want groups to focus on too many areas, while the groups themselves prefer focused objectives. 80% of group members say Bible study is important, and 64% of group members say they prefer to prioritize prayer.

Solution: Pastors and group leaders should work together to develop a strategic plan and set focused objectives that are realistic and achievable.

Problem #2: Small group timings do not work for most people.

51% of group members drop out mostly to do general busyness. 33% of group members prioritize personal responsibilities over group meetings. 22% of group members don’t join a group as it meets at an inconvenient time.

Solution: Churches should start new groups that meet at times and locations that are convenient for new people to attend.

Problem #3: Small group leaders tend to focus more on lesson plans rather than discipleship.

"Making disciples isn’t about gathering pupils to listen to your teaching. The real focus is not on teaching people at all—the focus is on loving them.

- Francis Chan

Solution: Life change happens through relationships. Small group leaders need to intentionally build relationships with members and encourage a culture of transparency and vulnerability.

Problem #4: Small groups have a tendency to become insider-focused.

Reaching out to the community takes a backseat to small group interests—45% of groups had done zero outreach projects in the previous 12 months, while only 14% had done 5 or more, according to a smallgroups.com study.

Solution: Care and outreach go together. Ask members to reach out to new people and invite them to your small group. They can start by inviting their neighbors and co-workers.

Problem #5: Many small groups are unclear about their purpose.

They’re not sure what the mandate of the group is, what the group specifically hopes to accomplish, if they’re fulfilling their purpose at all, or whether to invite the unchurched or not.

Solution: Align the group’s purpose with the church’s mission statement. Identify some key biblical principles to guide your group. Keep reminding the group members about the purpose.

Problem #6: Small groups don’t often fulfill all of the church’s purposes.

While small groups often address Fellowship and Discipleship, many do not integrate Worship, Ministry, or Evangelism.

Solution: Small groups need to adopt a holistic outlook by focusing on all the 5 purposes mentioned above. Balanced growth in each of these areas needs to be gauged at an individual and group level for accountability and effectiveness.

Problem #7: Small groups tend to jump from one model to the next.

Solution: Understand the DNA of your church first. “Base the model of your small group on the vision of your church,” suggests Chris Surratt.

[Content adapted from Leadership Network Implementation LAB materials]