Having solid systems in place is a struggle for a lot of small group point people. There is a tendency to think that because we are dealing with community, it should be strictly organic. Relationships happen organically, so the ministry that organizes those relationships should happen organically as well.
The problem is that without good systems and planning, those relationships will never have the opportunity to form. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the inevitable disintegration of order into disorder. In other words, if something is left alone, it will eventually end up in chaos. That pretty much sums up a lot of our small group systems.
Whenever you’re thinking through your systems, it’s helpful to filter them through these four realities: What was, What is, What could be and What will be.
1. What was:
This is where we can have a tendency to get stuck, but we have to spend some time here to get to the next stage. George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” What is the foundation for what you are attempting to build? If we rush into a new system without considering what it’s replacing, we will just make the same mistakes. Spend some time in your planning thinking about what has been done before, but don’t stay in this stage too long.
2. What is:
This is your current reality. Take some time at this stage to do a careful analysis of your current systems and events. What is working, and what is not? What should you stop doing, and what should you start? Make sure that you have the latest facts as you spend time in this stage. It’s impossible to plan for the future when you don’t know the current reality. Do some research and find out what the numbers are. It may be painful, but it’s necessary to get a 360 perspective before you can move to the next reality.
3. What could be:
After you have gained perspective on where you have been and are now, it’s time to start dreaming about the future. This stage is about blue-sky thinking. Allow your team to put all of the “what ifs” on the table without worrying about the “how” yet. That will come in the next stage, but this is the time to answer the question: “What could we do if nothing was impossible?”
4. What will be:
Now that you have spent time dreaming about all of the possibilities, it’s time to decide on the initiatives that are realistic to tackle now and set SMART goals for achieving them. Make sure to hang on to all of your ideas from the last stage and keep them somewhere to return to later.
At the end of this process, determine the one goal that you have to achieve in the next six months or everything else will be a failure. In the military this is referred to as the Commander’s Intent. A concise expression of the purpose of the operation and the desired end. How can the next six months be summed up, and what is the desired final result?
Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over 22 years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC, for 15 years. He also manages SmallGroup.com for LifeWay Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson. You can follow his blog at chrissurratt.com or follow him on Twitter @chrissurratt.