In the July newsletter of the Small Group Network, Steve Gladen who is the small group community pastor for Saddleback Church, wrote about How to Add Small Groups to Your Sunday School Church. His first sentence is wise:
Whether you are transitioning away from Sunday School, or merely adding small groups to supplement your Sunday School system, be prepared for resistance.
We like comfort. Change takes us out of our comfort zone. Even positive change can be uncomfortable and lead to resistance. It is important to talk about it. Gladen says, “As in the case of any change, communication is the key. Use every avenue of communication, and use them often.” In the process of your communication, it is often wise to clarify who or what the enemy is. Rather than believing that those who resist the change are the enemy, keep yourself and them focused on the real enemy–the need for the change.
In Gladen’s newsletter, he suggests three excellent transition stages for moving toward adding small groups to your Sunday School church: patience, prayer, and planning. These three P’s will help you in working through any change.
- PATIENCE. Gladen says, “It is imperative that you understand not only the current culture, but also your church’s history and any buried ‘trigger points’ that may be stumbling blocks to progress.” This sounds negative, but he is merely encouragement to get to know your situation thoroughly before making change. Previous failures and challenges can require careful navigation that could only occur with patient research. Gladen then offers three pieces of good advice: (1) talk to key opinion leaders, including unofficial ones; (2) find out what worked and what didn’t in the past/present; and (3) “Honor the past, but progressively move into the future.” This advice is well worth the time it takes to accomplish. Good timing matters.
- PRAYER. All change should seek God’s leadership and blessing. Desire to do His will in all you do. Gladen advises: “Begin praying for responsiveness from your church. Enlist a group of people to pray for your new ministry. Ask Sunday School leaders to pray for the small group ministry.” He suggests asking God for answers to three simple questions: Who, When, and What. Ask Him who is responsive, passionate, and agreeing with your vision for small groups. Ask Him when you should implement. And ask Him for helping in knowing what to do and where to go. Be specific in your prayer. Be patient.
- PLANNING. Execution of a plan is essential. Gladen reiterates what has been said before: “Failing to plan is the same as planning to fail.” Think steps. Gladen shares three components of planning: dreaming, recognizing obstacles and barriers, and setting the plan in motion. Dream huge! Pursue God-sized change. If God has led you to add small groups, go for it with passion and energy. Prepare for hurdles. Gladen says, “Recognize the obstacles and barriers ahead of you. Brainstorm with your team to determine what those might be ahead of time.” Doing so as a team helps to broaden your thinking, ownership, and preparation. Don’t allow challenges to derail your planning. Finally, just do it! Make your plan. Plan your steps. Work your plan. Adjust when needed.
Gladen closes with this reminder: “Ask for [God’s] guidance. Spend extended time in prayer. Don’t get so carried away with your own agenda that you fail to follow His.” Good reminder. Are you planning to add small groups? Read all of Gladen’s article. Be patient and prayerful. Plan well. Include others in your plan to build ownership of the plan. Give God your best efforts! Be revolutionary!