I recently heard a pastor talk about the reason he believes his church’s groups ministry has prospered, even during the pandemic. He acknowledged the Lord’s hand in the good things taking place, but he also was cognizant that his people are a part of the success. He told me something that is foundational for any church’s groups ministry: “We do ordinary things extraordinarily well.”
If you look up the word “ordinary” in the Bible, you’ll find numerous references. I was surprised how many things were called ordinary in the Scriptures. The following list is representative and not exhaustive:
- There is ordinary bread (I Samuel 21:4)
- Ordinary pens (Isa. 8:1)
- Ordinary people (Acts 4:13, Romans 12:16)
- Ordinary work (Exodus 20:9)
- And of course, ordinary disputes (I Cor. 6:3)
I spent a weekend training the aforementioned pastor’s group leaders using the content from my book, Breakthrough: Creating a New Scorecard for Group Ministry Success. In that book I put forth the idea that a group’s work boils down to doing four things, four “ordinary” things, extraordinarily well. The 4 essential tasks of groups form an acrostic: LIFE.
- Learn and obey God’s Word. This is straight from the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Some groups stop short of the obeying part by over-emphasizing the accumulation of knowledge and facts.
- Invite others to become disciples. This is often a group’s weakest part. Inviting others to become disciples is a longer form of saying “evangelism.” Sharing Jesus involves “eating with sinners and tax collectors,” not just quoting the Roman Road to them. Evangelism in our post-COVID world is going to require relationships with unbelievers. As Jim Putman has said one of his books on discipleship, “Jesus’ primary method for making disciples was life-on-life.”
- Form deeper relationships. A group is more than just a gathering. Great groups focus a lot of energy on building relationships between group members, but they also maintain a focus on building relationships with lost persons. It’s a two-sided coin.
- Engage in acts of service. To do this well, group leaders must hold onto their group members with a very loose grip. People must be encouraged to leave the group to serve in other ministries of the church. But in addition to engaging in acts of service within the body of Christ, groups must also have a plan for engaging in acts of service in the community. There must be a ministry beyond the address of the church.
In my ministry, I have found that clarifying objectives helps everyone – especially group leaders and their groups. We don’t want them to guess as to what they should be doing to experience success in ministry. The LIFE acrostic is a simple way to remember that a lot of life happens between Sundays, and that groups are not meant to just gather and study together. Group members are meant to become life-long disciples of Jesus. Group members are meant to live life as disciples between the times their groups gather. Group members are supposed to discover that the work of their group is bigger than what takes place on a Sunday morning. In fact, one pastor I served with told my group leaders something very challenging during a time of training, “If you think group ministry is about 9AM to noon on Sundays, you don’t see the job!” Great groups realize they must focus on accomplishing the four essential elements above, which are “ordinary” things that give extraordinary results.
To learn more about the four elements in the LIFE acrostic, purchase a copy of Breakthrough today. Read it. Share the content with your pastor. If you’re a group leader, read the book with a few other people from your group and use the 16 diagnostic questions in the book to determine where you should begin improving on these four key elements. Some churches have purchased a copy of the book for every group leader and are using it as a training tool. I take no royalty on the book, so selling copies to benefit me isn’t the purpose – it’s all about helping groups and group leaders accomplish 4 essential (and yes, ordinary!) tasks.
To be a great group in 2023 and beyond, you’ll want to do ordinary things extraordinarily well. I hope that the four elements in the LIFE acrostic will be the beginning of good things for you and your group in 2023 as you refocus on the essential tasks of groups!