Every problem has multiple, potential solutions. Some changes can make small, modest improvements while others can greatly advance your small groups and their effectiveness. Here are the best six steps to crack the code toward problem solving.
- Curious. Always be curious and on the lookout for new ideas for your small groups. You need to make it your mission to be curious and looking to discover new, exciting, and even frightening potential ideas. Practice being curious each and every day. Make curiosity a habit. Don’t be afraid to put a question mark at the end of statements or assumed truths. You need to embrace uncertainty.
- Imperfect. Don’t go looking for the perfect small group solution right out of the gate. Effective problem solving involves lots of thinking, lots of trial and error, lots of small steps forward. While Neil Armstrong took the “giant leap for mankind,” it came at the end of lots and lots of smaller steps. Early on, every rocket blew up on the pad. Every step forward comes along with its siblings; sideways and backwards.
- Replay. Think of small group problem solving like instant replay. Look at a single event from all sorts of angles. Even from a blimp or drone. Look at the problem in slow motion. Only when you see the problem from different positions will you receive insight. Replay what’s going on in your small groups from different angles, at different speeds to learn as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to hit replay again and again.
- Restless. Your small groups might be percolating along nicely. You might be in a season of harvesting. But could your small groups be better? Don’t settle for what works, but restlessly explore what could be better. You need some restlessness in your heart and mind if your small groups are to grow to all they could be. This means being willing to take risks by tweaking what’s working in order to make it better.
- Sources. Don’t assume that the smartest and most spiritually mature people on the planet are already inside your leadership team. Look outside your congregation, and even outside your denomination. And dare I say it, look outside the church itself for insights and ideas. Yes, God is big enough to use the NY Times, Washington Post, NPR and secular resources. I can’t tell you how many great ideas I have found from non-Christian sources.
- Story. When it comes to communicating problems, ideas, and potential solutions, the traditional approach is to use a bulleted list. This is guaranteed to push people away and into a comatose state with no creativity. Instead, tell stories that are charged with action and emotion. Stories energize and electrify. Stories draw people in, they invite everyone to actively participate, offering questions and creative alternatives.
Creative problem solving is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for people that are afraid to fail. It’s the stuff that great leaders and kings are made of.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.Proverbs 25:2, NIV
Which brings up a potentially convicting question: how desperately do you want your small groups to flourish? What are you willing to do? What risks are you willing to take for them to grow both spiritually and numerically?
May God grant you wisdom, strength, and courage to creatively solve the problems that are holding your small groups back.
 The inspiration for this article was “Six problem-solving mindsets for very uncertain times” by Charles Conn and Robert McLean, McKinsey Quarterly, September 15, 2020