An Analysis of Sermon-Based Small Group Strategy
Mark Howell uses his years of small group leadership experience to offer his take on sermon-based small groups.
I am regularly asked about the wisdom or effectiveness of a sermon-based strategy. Underlying the question many times is the sense that providing a study to be used will keep groups from straying from the well trodden pathway. And I have to admit that at some level there is wisdom behind what they are asking. See also, Sermon Based Small Groups.
There is wisdom behind what they are asking…but there is also a set of assumptions that need to be unearthed and evaluated. Only after evaluating will it make sense to embrace, discard or modify.
Common assumptions that accompany a sermon-based group strategy:
- A sermon-based group curriculum allows members to ask questions and discuss the weekend message (hard to argue with that)
- A sermon-based strategy encourages one conversation among the congregation’s adult participants (again, hard to argue with the benefit, at least periodically, of this idea)
- A sermon-based curriculum can be produced in-house, ensuring theological orthodoxy while keeping the cost down (perhaps the cost of curriculum can be minimized, but ensuring theological orthodoxy has more to do with the leader)
- Sermon-based curriculum makes it possible to intentionally target particular aspects of spiritual growth
Observations about sermon-based strategies:
- The invitation to join our group as we dig in deeper to our pastor’s message is often less appealing to friends, neighbors, co-workers and family than an intentionally selected cross-cultural topic.
- Small group studies based on expository sermons, especially lengthy verse-by-verse through a book of the Bible, are a often a tougher invite for unconnected people.
- Variety is present in virtually every other arena (restaurants, television programming, neighborhoods, etc.) and the entire customer base is targeted and served by anticipating individual tastes.
- Sermon-based groups can provide the very real benefit of one conversation in a congregation. This is one of powerful ingredients of a church-wide campaign, intensified by the short-term nature of a campaign. See also, The Exponential Power of a Church-Wide Campaign.
- Providing a sermon-based curriculum will be beneficial and appealing to a segment of most congregations. Saddleback is an example of a church that has made sermon-based curriculum available for a number of years. Here is a link to their Talk It Over resource. See also, Top 10 Fantasies of Churches WITH Small Groups and All Kinds of Groups Leads to a Church OF Groups.
- Identifying your grouplife customer in advance and building a strategy to connect that customer may lead you to provide sermon-based curriculum as an option, but not the only or even the main option (i.e., if you want your groups to have an outreach potential). See also, Do You Really Understand Your Customer?, Three Little GroupLife Secrets No One Ever Tells You and If I Was Starting Today: Who Is Our Customer?