Small groups need to be nurtured in order to flourish

Small groups serve as vital threads in church life, weaving together individuals in fellowship, discipleship, and mission. Just as soon as a new group is launched, questions of long-term success arise. How will we measure success? How will we keep our groups on mission? What content will they teach week over week or year over year? For our groups to be sustainable, they need a system to flourish. Here are three ways to uncover biblical wisdom and practical strategies to foster thriving and sustainable groups within our church communities.

Church Context and Group Types: Embracing Our Unique Journey

As we serve Georgia Baptists, we hear phrases like “but my church is not like any other near me.” We could not agree more! Understanding the unique context of your church is the first step toward building a flourishing group ministry. Each congregation carries its own history, culture, and experiences with small groups, shaping the path forward.

For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. – 1 Corinthians 12:12

Paul underscores recognizing and valuing our church body’s diverse roles and contexts that create unique discipleship pathways. By discovering our context, we can dream of a future where every group type plays a pivotal role in our collective mission, fostering a holistic and sustainable disciple-making ecosystem.

Where Groups Become Unsustainable: Facing Our Challenges with Faith

“We are so excited we launched new groups this year!” Finding a leader, a location, and content for the group was hard, but now the hard work is over, right? Wrong. Groups that flourish need to be planted, nourished, pruned, and bear the fruit of launching additional groups. To fulfill the Great Commission in Georgia, we must be honest about our challenges with groups to create systems to scale growth. The sustainability of these groups hinges on continuous nurturing, guidance, and evaluation.

But the seed in the good ground—these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, produce fruit.” – Luke 8:15

In this parable, Jesus focuses on understanding the life cycle of a group’s framework. Cultivating an environment where groups can thrive—planted in good soil, nourished by the Word, and pruned through accountability. By acknowledging our challenges, committing to growth, and launching new groups, we align our efforts with the Great Commission, aspiring to bear fruit that will last.

A Better Toolbox for Sustainable Groups: Equipping Leaders with Clarity and Purpose

“Mission, vision, and values are everywhere; why are mine unique?” Options are great, but if you have ever opened a toolbox with so many tools that you can’t see what is in it, you have experienced the frustration of option fatigue. Your church is unique, and your toolbox in Georgia should be, too. Your leaders need clarity. It’s our job to equip the saints to do the work of the Kingdom if we see a disciple-making movement in our church, community, and state.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. – 1 Peter 5”1-3

Pastors are elders, shepherds, and overseers. By carefully choosing tools that enhance clarity, foster engagement, and streamline processes, we empower our leaders to shepherd their groups effectively as overseers. Your Georgia Baptist Mission Board serves churches to advance the Gospel. If you want to take the next step towards organizing your toolkit, contact a Church Strengthening Consult or Catalyst.

As we launch and sustain these groups, we encounter life change and challenges. The journey of nurturing sustainable groups within our church is an opportunity to clarify each church’s unique role in fulfilling the Great Commission. Together, we can foster a vibrant, disciple-making community that communicates a clear disciple-making pathway for each disciple.

Did you enjoy this article? Then join in on our upcoming live training, Why Groups: The Key To Transforming Your Church happening Thursday, April 25th. Get the details.


Dr. PJ Dunn serves the Georgia Baptist Mission Board as Discipleship Consultant NE & NW. 

Published March 7, 2024