Our church has a pretty active Sunday School program. But last year the goal was established to increase participation in Small Group Ministry. The first few attempts at making this happen were challenging because people had ideas in their mind about what "Small Groups" meant. In the past, they joined a Small Group for 40 day studies like Purpose Driven Life and others like it. On Day 41, most disbanded. On top of this the leaders generally saw themselves as facilitators and not leaders or teachers. Generally, the fruit from these types of small groups was minimal.
The reason I share this, is that we are all parts of Systems that don't produce what we desire them to produce. Systems produce what they are designed to produce. So for us, we have two systems for adult discipleship: Sunday School and 'Small Groups'. And we have realized neither of them by themselves are adequate to help people grow (Sunday School is constrained by time and generally by inconsistent attendance--'Small Groups' as mentioned are only drops in the bucket of discipleship and the leaders of both are not trained or coached.)
So as Leaders, when our systems don't work, we have to address this. There's 3 Options in doing this.
THE CLEAN SLATE: At first I wanted to try to eliminate the systems that weren't working and start fresh. This method may be productive down the road, but drastic change that is not fully endorsed by the people will lead to drastic resistance.
THE WHEEL REINVENTION: Option two is to take the existing system and reinvent it. If Sunday School isn't working because of time restrictions, untrained leadership and lack of commitment. Then, this model says invest all your energies and efforts into revitalizing those three areas...Lengthen Sunday School...Demand of teachers that they come to training and demand of participants that they be fully engaged. This is the least shocking to the existing system, but it is still working with the same groups who generally don't want changes to take place. You will find yourself asking if these dead bones can live!?
THE SYSTEM SIDE BY SIDE: At Steak & Shake they have milkshake options that are called Side by Sides. I can get a Strawberry and Vanilla Side by Side where at the beginning I get the delicious flavors of each individually depending on where my straw is. Then, by the end, the two flavors have merged into a tasty deliciousness. This is the System we are implementing at Church. Rather than eliminate the less fruitful system, we are letting it continue to operate. However, we have established a new system called lifeWorth Groups. We have started small with four groups. Each group has a leader and an apprentice. Each group is studying the same material (John) and every other week, I meet with the leaders and apprentices to cover the next two lessons. The leaders are trained well, equipped well and empowered to lead. I invest 75 to 80 % of my efforts into this system and the rest is in managing the other system. Next year the apprentices will break off and we will go from 4 groups to 8 groups, slowly expanding the system all the while ensuring that the leaders buy in, are trained and equipped. For now the two systems are side by side. But the vision eventually is that the inadequate system in place will gradually see the fruit of something new and desire to merge into that.
Leaders will destroy themselves in trying to change the culture of a movement drastically overnight. They will also be exhausted if they seek to bring life to a system that is outdated or ineffective. The effective leader must be willing to affect change incrementally so that the culture change will be significant and permanent.