Commentary: Six essential values of a next level groups ministry


The greatest barrier to disciple-making in the United States is undiscipled believers. We have resources and opportunities like never before, and yet our churches still struggle to fulfill the one task our Lord left us to accomplish — to make disciples. Just ask the majority of churches that have plateaued or are in decline since the pandemic.

Trained group leaders are key to helping the Church reach, mature, and multiply disciples. The six values below were collected over three decades of local church experience.  During that time, one church that I served grew from averaging less than 50% of the worship attendance in a group to nearly 90%. The following ideas are simple, but they can bring dramatic changes when implemented consistently.

Externally Focused

Most unbelievers in your ministry area do not attend your church. Shocking, right?!! So if you want to engage and connect new people into your church, then you must get your people outside the walls of your ministry building and into the community. You can do this in several ways.

Work with your local government to discover the greatest needs they are seeking to resource, then BE the resource to help meet the need.
Consider sponsoring community events (not on your campus) like block parties, concerts, corn hole tournaments, lawn mower races (yes, that’s a thing), arts & crafts festivals, holiday celebrations, vintage car gatherings, or even something as simple as distributing water at travel ball tournaments.
Train your people to have gospel conversations. Invite neighbors for a meal, consider places they interact regularly, such as their favorite restaurant, and while doing life with people, ask the Lord to reveal additional opportunities for gospel conversation.

Relationally Invested

The purpose of your group or class can be described as reaching, teaching, ministering, and multiplying. This purpose will likely never be fully realized if the members are not caring for one another effectively. So how can leaders create a groups ministry where people love each other well?

Provide opportunities for group members to make 2 AM friends. These are people that you can call on at any time and they will be there, no questions asked…even at 2 AM. This most often happens when life falls apart. A deeply connected friend will show up when times are tough.
People in a group are looking for community. Do you create space during regularly scheduled bible study and worship times for members and guests to have meaningful conversations? You may do this over coffee, between on-campus worship & bible study times, with a meal, or even during a kid’s playdate.
The group should help disciples mature and connect with people they consider “framily”--friends & family.

Ministry Motivated

Flourishing churches tend to do at several things well. These churches attract new people, connect new members, and group members are given opportunities to serve as part of the church’s mission.

Check out the following ideas to help move people to serve and connect, instead of sit and complain.

Consider using memorable language to guide expectations. One church created an EMS campaign where they led their people to understand that “Every Member Serving.” The pastor can be a huge catalyst for growth by championing from the pulpit the idea thatevery member should serve.
Communicate the expectation to serve in your new member class. Help prospective members understand that a biblical disciple will connect in the following ways:  large group assembly (worship), a small group/class, and on a service team. You’ll find it much easier to sign people up to serve on the front side of joining the church rather than afterwards.
Take members through a spiritual gift inventory. Help them find a place to serve based on their spiritual giftedness and personal passions. Members serving within their giftedness will serve more faithfully and more effectively.

Multiplication Minded

Healthy, disciple-making churches create new disciples and launch new groups. In order tomultiply as Jesus did, first understand the following pivotal ideas.

People will naturally lean towards connection and not multiplication. This barrier can paralyze your groups ministry. As a point of practical application, consider using the word multiply rather than divide when starting new groups. We want to guide members to experience a sense of growth. We also want them to understand that Jesus’ model was to invest and multiply (Mt. 28:18-20).
Celebrate multiplication as a new “win.” Too often churches talk about connection as if it is the goal of church membership. Christ-likeness is the goal, and connection is one stone on the pathway of maturing toward Christ-likeness.
Churches who start new groups connect guests at a higher rate. Our Lord’s final command was to make disciples, and leading churches are finding that launching new groups is key to see that happen.

Kingdom Mentality

Do your people have a “me” or a “we” perspective? Consumerism is one of the greatest struggles that many ministry leaders face. Developing a kingdom mentality requires that we understand that the church’s mission is about making disciples and recognizing that unbelievers are not the enemy.  Consider the following ideas to help group members gain a mentality that is Christ centered and guest oriented (Phil. 2:3).

Think like a guest. Group members can forget what it is like to visit a new church and walk into a new room with new people. Seek to set a warm environment that communicates to all guests that they are welcome and that they belong.
Prioritize time alone with Jesus in His Word and in prayer. This will become foundational to guide group members’ hearts.
Memorize scripture. Nothing is more beneficial to help replace a self-centered mindset than to memorize God’s Word (Phil. 4:8-9).
Meeting regularly with an accountability partner(s) will prove critical for a disciple seeking to walk faithfully with Jesus.
Set a goal to have one gospel conversation every day and view every person in your path as a soul in need of King Jesus.

Word Driven

Scripture teaches that the Word of God transforms (Rm. 12:1-2), sanctifies (I Tm. 4:5), never returns void (Is. 55:11) and that Truth does not change because of shifting cultural views (Heb. 13:8). Elevate the Word and teach the MEAT of the lesson this week. Consider the following acrostic as you prioritize God’s Word as the primary source of the teaching experience.

Motivation--find a way to grab the learners’ attention as soon as they enter the room.
Examination--focus on the Word of God and the author’s original intent.
Application--share application of the principles for daily living.
Take-away--ask the learners to share what they will take away from the lesson to implement in the days ahead.

These six values guided my group's ministry trainings for decades. If our Georgia Baptist Discipleship team can help you establish a plan for training your leaders and launching new groups, please contact us at We are here to serve!


Dr. Scott Sullivan serves on the Church Strengthening team as the Discipleship Catalyst for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.