In part 1 of this series, I wrote about how I discovered that our Small Group system was trying to solve the wrong problem based on the Storybrand framework developed by Donald Miller. In this post I want to show you how we went about identifying our current problem (which we were not solving) and to identify the problem we needed to solve going forward.
The 2 Problems that Small Groups wrestle with
As I finished up chapter 5 of Building a Story Brand I immediately began wrestling with the material that was presented. In this chapter, Miller talked about the key to the entire Storybrand framework which was ‘the problem’. As I began to think about ‘a problem’ and ‘the solution’ that we were offering. it dawned on me that most Small Groups are trying to solve one of two problems. The first problem is community. We know that people feel isolated and alone in and off themselves and if they can join with others, it will unlock their desire to be known and loved. The second problem is discipleship. We are all broken and sinful people by nature. It is only when we accept Jesus Christ as our savior and begin to follow him as a disciple can we begin to take steps to work on the shortcoming of our life. If these problems sound familiar, it’s because they are the same problems that many people who lead Small Groups have wrestled with. This was not unique to our situation. What was unique was that the people who attend our church and live in our area did not identify with the problem we were trying to solve.
Houston, we have a problem
Our church is located in the suburbs of Houston, TX. Houston is the 4th largest city in the US and is ranked as the most diverse city in America. The communities surrounding our church are filled with what are known as ‘master-planned communities’. These are housing communities surrounded by parks, shopping, recreation, and schools so that you never have to leave your neighborhood to get what you need. As a result you get to know your neighbors and the people who live around you pretty well. Also as a result of the diversity of our city, many people of the same ethnic group and culture will seek out and build relationship with each other. Here in lies our problem. We had been presenting the problem to our community as they were lonely and needed to make friends with other people. Our community was telling us through their lack of response that they did not have a community problem. Our community had a discipleship problem.
Settling on the right problem
There is was! The problem that we needed to solve going forward. Once we were able to flesh this out, some pretty amazing things started happening. People were coming up to us and telling us about their desire to ‘grow deeper’. Leaders where catching us in the halls and tells us they were feeling the pull of God to lead a ‘deeper kind of Small Group’. Our leadership team was expressing their vision for our ministry to include ‘preparing and equipping people to be disciples’. It’s no coincidence that all this was taking place because we had correctly identified the right problem our groups needed to solve.
Where do we go from here?
Were far from done! In fact, we haven’t even started taking our first steps as a ministry yet. So you might be reading this and you are asking yourself “how can I learn from what you did’? Great question! Here are my list of recommendations:
- Buy a copy of Building a Story Brand and read it with your Small Group team. If you are flying solo, buy the book and start taking notes.
- Engage in conversations with the people at your church. Ask them ‘why’ they are in a small group? Or the inverse ask them why they are not in small group?
- Take time to really process through the idea of your message and are the people at your church listening. Have you been offering groups for some time now, but you are not seeing any growth in engagement? This might be a sign that your message is not connecting.
- Engage with me others about what you are processing. If you are going through this with a team, schedule time to talk and debrief together. If you are flying solo, feel free to email me and I will be glad to engage in dialogue with you.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Donald Miller for his book and for helping our church think through our message. My prayer is that it will also be a source of encouragement and clarity for you as you look to engage your church in being in a Small Group.