Over the years, it’s become clear to me that the single most difficult ministry in a local church is just that … singles. Those “College and Career” groups are literally just killer. Of course, one of my “answers” is always to focus on life-transforming small groups and then let the good times roll from that. In our experience … I checked with my bride, Kris who has as much or more experience in working with singles than I … although there are a number of reasons singles’ ministries are difficult, one of the biggest is over-programming and over-thinking. This is especially true for small groups. We want the “study” to be engaging and informing and filled with ice breakers so the group bonds. Yeah. Over-programming.

Instead of scheduling the small group time moment-by-moment, we suggest letting the small group time be a lot more free-flowing. Do something over a meal … always the ultimate ice breaker … and then get someone who’s been trained in Discipleship Small Groups and let it rip. In a nutshell, Discipleship Small Groups are focused around discipling using a curriculum that some have called a “non-curriculum.” The whole evening kicks off with a single question: “So, what have you read this week in scripture that intrigued you?” This will spark some interesting conversation, since the #1 answer will be “Huh?” followed by comments like “I tried to read through the Bible” and “I tried to read the Bible, but I just couldn’t understand what I was reading.” The facilitator helps the conversation along and typically doesn’t have a lot of answers … but the conversation tends to lively. There are other Discipleship Development questions that the facilitator can use to keep the conversation going, if needed, though in my experience this one question is lively enough for the evening (other questions include the likes of, “Who’s life did you intentionally touch in Jesus’ name?” and “Who did you encourage in their faith journey this week?”).

In week two, when the reading question is asked again, the conversation will be equally “Huh? I can’t believe you asked us again!” and the conversation will probably hinge on excuses and talk about how to fit spirituality practices into real life. By week three, though, people start sharing and the conversation become tailored to the group’s interests and whims. Other DD questions are introduced during the coming weeks, all of which are designed to raise the “Huh?” factor into consciousness and help stimulate discipleship behavior during the week.

The best thing about these kinds of small groups is that the singles (or anyone else doing them) set their own agenda overall. They can do these questions over pizza, at a club, while camping or skiing (at the lodge), and even keep in touch with the questions with those not there via SMS.

Is this the only answer for effective small groups? Hardly, but in our experience, it works out pretty well. Letting the small group set their own agenda within the context of becoming more effective in their faith walk seems to be a winner overall.