10 Ways to Get Out of a Small Group Pastor Rut

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Climbing out is not that hard, but you’ll need to know what to do.

Landing and staying in a rut is very easy to do, especially if you’re a small group pastor.   Climbing out is not that hard, but you’ll need to know what to do. Let me suggest ten possibilities for “rut escape.”
1. Attend a conference. Getting out of everydayness and spending time listening to other visionary pastors reinvigorates the heart and motivates us to dream again.
2. Join a network of small group pastors. Spending time with other small group pastors talking about, debating, evaluating, and getting input from them concerning your ministry is definitely a rut cruncher.
Steve Gladen from Saddleback Church has a nationwide network of small group pastors who meet together. To join a network near you just click on this sentence.
 3. Go on a spiritual enrichment retreat. Getting away from the ecclesiastical rat race, slowing your pace, and focusing solely on Christ and His love for you will not only get you out of the rut, it will elevate you into His presence where something miraculous can take place in your spirit.
 4. Lead a conference about small groups for another church or organization. I have learned that leading a small group conference is one of the most invigorating experiences a small group pastor can have. It reminds he/she of the role they fill in the Kingdom, sets them to rethinking the difference small groups can make in people’s lives, and reminds them that the vision and strategy God has given them is vital to God and the church they serve.
 5. Sit in on another churches small group leadership team meeting. Sitting in on another small group pastor’s small group leadership team meeting is an energizing experience. You will see passion in others that will spill over onto you and you’ll take that passion back to your own team.
 6. Evaluate your own group ministry with the mindset that changes will be made. Oftentimes we not only feel like we’re in a rut, the ministry actually is in a rut. Get your leadership team together and evaluate the ministry alerting them to the fact, changes are coming. Simply knowing changes are in the works and creating action plans will enliven the heart and, as the new work is being accomplished, energize you and your leadership team for long periods of time.
 7. Help individuals you have placed in high levels of leadership that are keeping your vision from becoming a reality to find a more fulfilling ministry to serve in. ‘Nuff said.
8. Meet with or do a conversation via skype or phone with someone you consider a small group guru. Make the primary part of your conversation trends in small group life and how you can implement some of those in your setting.
9. Read entire books of the New Testament in one setting viewing these historical moments and doctrinal expectations through the eyes of a first century believer who was leading a house church. I assure you, there’s no way you can remain in the rut, the paradigm of group life you’ll encounter will set your heart on adventuresome ground.
10. Set aside alone time to listen to God for direction for your ministry. Find a location where you will not be interrupted with only a pad of paper and pen in hand. Write down anything that you discern might be from Him.

Remember this… the rut is an option, not a reality. You simply need to be willing to exert the energy to do one or a few of the suggestions noted above. 

Rick Howerton Rick has one passion… To see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.” He is presently pursuing this passion as the Small Group and Discipleship Specialist at LifeWay Church Resources. Rick has authored or co-authored multiple books, studies, and leader training resources including A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic, Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual, The Gospel and the Truth: Living the Message of Jesus, Small Group Life Ministry Manual: A New Approach to Small Groups, Redeeming the Tears: a Journey Through Grief and Loss, Small Group Life: Kingdom, Small Group Kickoff Retreat: Experiential Training for Small Group Leaders, and Great Beginnings: Your First Small Group Study, Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple Making. Rick’s varied ministry experiences as an collegiate minister, small group pastor, teaching pastor, elder, full-time trainer and church consultant, as well as having been a successful church planter gives him a perspective of church life that is all-encompassing and multi-dimensional. Rick is a highly sought after communicator and trainer.

More from Rick Howerton or visit Rick at https://rickhowerton.wordpress.com

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  • http://www.calledtoperu.org Shaun Wissmann

    I appreciate the thoughts, and my guess is the order is not necessarily indicative of your feelings on this topic.  (And I am sure so many people tear down articles just like these).  

    I just wanted to point out how scary it is to me that we have so many suggestions for doing, and networking, and vision… yet the final suggestion is really the most important one:

    Quiet time with God.  

    You could probably knock out half of these suggestions, by putting #10, first.  When someone is in a rut, perseverance with God is what brings someone out.  Quiet time with God is what lifts the soul, brings us into a place of worship, and gives unexplainable supernatural joy.   

    As leaders we can’t pour out, if we aren’t being poured into.  That has to start from God first, then the Body.

    Thanks for putting your thoughts out there, and be willing for someone to challenge them!  Blessings.

  • http://twitter.com/danfishr Dan Fisher

    Joined a small group network close to me, realizing that my experience in another culture has afforded me great insight into groups for the region I previously worked in.  Getting together with folks here who’ve ministered in this region will help me discover blind spots and will educate me on effective group strategy for this area of the country.  Looking forward to connecting with this group soon.

    It’s very helpful to talk with other churches’ staff about small group structure, vision, strategy, metrics, etc.  It helps me mentally answer these questions, comparing my current evaluation of our own small group ministry to our original intent.  And it helps me realize how far I and our ministry have come.

    I’m constantly evaluating our ministry to eliminate redundancy, achieve depth, become more accessible and develop new leaders.  Taking time to think about these things keeps the macro-level of groups at the forefront of my mind when it’s easy to get bogged down in other things.

    And taking the time to get away from the strategies, meetings and curriculum has been extremely beneficial for me.  Small group planning, troubleshooting and development are time-intensive and can quickly become draining.  Taking time away gives me renewed energy and desire to do what I think God’s called me to do.

    I appreciate all of these suggestions and look forward to adopting some of these often, while becoming more intentional about repeating the ones I’ve done.  Thanks, Rick.

  • Mike Mack

    Wow! Love this, Rick! As a small groups pastor with lots of experience in ruts, I wish I would’ve read this years ago! I have come upon many of these by chance over the years (especially #7!).

    One that I’ve done but always wish I’d done even more is #3. The value of just getting away for a couple hours or a day for some time of solitude with God is invaluable. Looking back, the times when I have been MOST busy have been the times I needed this the most.

    Also, #8 is a biggie. I really appreciate those gurus who have invested into my life. And, by the way, I’ve often found that these are not necessarily just those who have been at this longer than me! I’ve learned more at times from the younger or newer pastors, and also those from different cultures or with different kinds of experiences. We all need to learn to listen more so we can learn from anyone!

    Tahnks again for your ministry, Rick!


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