Here’s a couple of books that have come out recently on small groups. Interestingly, both of these books focus not on how to lead a small group, but how to lead a small group ministry. So if you’re the person responsible in your church for looking after small groups these are worth looking at.
The first is from the Willow Creek stable and is entitled Building a Life Changing Small Group Ministry by Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson. These guys churn out materials on small groups and its usually sane and helpful. This offering is no exception. They walk through topics like ministry clarity, leadership, structure, leader development, and strategic planning. Now, it’s American, it’s geared at (very) large churches, and you won’t agree with everything. But, what I like about the book is that it asks good questions, and presents multiple models, without ever being overly prescriptive. In that sense, it’s a helpful book to get you thinking about the right sorts of issues.
The second book is by Steve Gladen and is entitled Small Groups With Purpose. Gladen looks after Saddleback Church’s 3,500 small groups (yes, you did read that correctly). Like Donahue and Robinson, Gladen walks through the foundations of a healthy small group ministry including core values, vision, development, and strategy. It’s a little more prescriptive than the Willow book, and based around Saddleback’s model of church. I personally liked their strategy for starting new groups, involving fringe people, around an annual ‘campaign’ (you’ll have to read the book!). The book also contains a helpful small group health assessment tool which I’ll be encouraging our leaders to use. And he also has some good advice for small group ministry coordinators in terms of how to invest in different types of leaders and groups. I wasn’t quite so taken with the leader recruitment model which essentially makes willing hosts small group leaders. I can see that you could end up with some spiritually immature people in positions of significant influence. But like the previous book, it gets you thinking about some important stuff.
If you are the person charged with looking after your church’s small group ministry I’d recommend you spend some time with these books. As I say, they’ll be plenty that you don’t agree with or doesn’t apply, but I do think these books get you asking the right questions about how to develop a small group ministry within a church.