SMALL GROUPS & How to Prevent Burn Out Because of Too Many Group Meetings

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/9/15

Can there be too much of a good thing?  Yes.  I have observed a recurring misstep with small groups is to have too many meetings (with too little spiritual formation).

A student once tendered a very good question saying,

“Dr. Whitesel,  Would you say that it’s necessary for all ‘small groups’ that don’t have a formal meeting time to have one?

For example, we have a team of people who direct traffic. This group could probably be considered a small group, but they don’t have a collective meeting time, because they serve at various services, etc. In your opinion should they have regular meeting times where they all come together?

It seems that if that is the case and people are involved in multiple ministries like this, they could very quickly become overwhelmed with the number of meetings and groups to be a part of.  Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid burnout if people are in multiple groups and need to have collective meetings with their groups regularly?”

Here is my response.

Hello;  Good questions.  The cure for burnout is to not have too many meetings. Thus, you would not want to make groups such as the parking team have to have additional meetings.

But the key is that you want to make them do UP-IN-OUT activities regularly.  UP is worship/word/prayer time.  IN is sharing hearts, supporting one another and prayer requests.  OUT is regular service to others.

Thus, you would require the parking team (at some time, perhaps before the cars arrive) to have an IN and UP time, e.g. perhaps sharing prayer requests and then praying for them and singing a worship song together.

They are already serving others well (the OUT element of small groups) through their parking lot hospitality.

But adding these missing “spiritual formation elements” can revolutionize your team!  That is because in the example the student gave, the small group was not growing in all three areas, but primarily only growing in service OUT.

SMALL GROUPS & What To Say to Someone Turned-off by Small Groups

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/9/15.

Have you met someone that was turned-off to the idea of small groups in a church?  I certainly have.  A student once shared about his failed attempt to talk to someone about small groups, saying:

“I talked with someone a couple days ago. Mentioned small groups. She got fairly worked up. She was not interested in all that ‘social engineering.’ She felt that all that the small group could accomplish could be accomplished quite well in church and amongst her chosen relationships. My attempts at defending the concept did not accomplish much (as far as I could tell). This person, whether she NEEDS a small group or not, will not be found in a small group. Your brother, _____.”

Here is my reply.

Hello ____student_name____;

Thanks for sharing. This is an all too common reaction that we often get when we unknowingly use loaded language. Loaded language means that this lady probably already has a negative view of small groups (she probably saw some sort of program called “small groups” and did not realize that there are many types of small groups and many types of small group ministries).

Thus, in hindsight you probably would want to talk with her about her friendships and how small gatherings of her friends have helped her.

Then if you ascertain she has a small group outside of the church, tell her that is great 🙂  We want everyone to have a small group of friends. But we also hope that this group can lead them closer to Christ.  If she has that, encourage that.  But, if she doesn’t have such a group, then graciously and tactfully guide her toward finding that type of environment.

Speaking hashtags: #StLizTX #StMarksTX

SMALL GROUPS & 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “Elmer Towns wrote the introduction to a very good book on small group leadership and since he is a friend and mentor, this encouraged me to check out the book.  The book is titled, “8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders” and it is by Dave Early.  It covers each of the “8 habits of effective small group leaders” in a chapter.  Here are the chapters, but for good insights, check out the book.”

  1. Dream of leading a healthy, growing, multiplying group.
  2. Pray for group members daily
  3. Invite new people to visit the group weekly
  4. Contact group members regularly
  5. Prepare for the group meeting
  6. Mentor an apprentice leader
  7. Plan group fellowship activities
  8. Be committed to personal growth

SMALL GROUPS & Should We Be Birthing (or Celling) New Groups? Yes!

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/9/15.

Over the years I’ve discovered that using the terms “cell groups” (e.g. leadership teams or discipleship groups) or “celling” too often confuses people because it insinuates that small groups of leaders or small groups for discipleship must equally divide, as a biological “cell” would do, into two even halves.

I have found that this tactic, based upon equal division of a small group, is often resisted by group members because they need a consistency of participants to foster openness and accountability. Thus people’s need for the stability they have found in small groups and teams makes them resist launching a new small group out of the their group (which they fear would undercut their cohesiveness and candidness).

However, small groups will usually be open to a few individuals “planting” a small group like them (I sometimes call this “birthing a small group from the DNA of the mother small group”).

ATTACHED IS AN AUDIO NOTE with more of my thoughts on this.  I think this helps explain why celling (equally dividing of a small group) usually does not work in North America, but why “birthing” a small group from the DNA of the mother group does work.

WOMEN & Grudem on Grudem’s Studies via #ScotMcKnight

Introduction by Scot McKnight to an Interview with Wayne Grudem by Books at a Glance.

Wayne Grudem has recently been interviewed by Books at a Glance, and here is a brief clip — at the link you can see the whole interview: I’m not so sure that ‘complementarian’ can be defined as ‘equal in value but different in their God-given roles.’ It’s not difference that is the issue; the issue is the kind of difference.”

More at …

Read the entire interview at ..,

A video of Bob Whitesel: SMALL GROUPS & Growing Churches Require Small Group Membership

Bob Whitesel, Oct. 2012, Conference, Nashville, TN.

“If you emphasize small groups, then your church will survive pastoral changeover, location change and all the calamities that tend to divide. The small group becomes the glue.”  Bob Whitesel


Speaking hashtags: #StLizTX #StMarksTX