By Kevin Lee / Online Small Groups Pastor at Saddleback Church
If I have to pick a single factor for Saddleback’s small group growth, it would be the H.O.S.T. strategy. This strategy allows for a person with minimal knowledge of the Bible to lead a very purposeful small group discussion. If you don’t know about this strategy, I highly recommend you watch a brief clip here.
H.O.S.T. strategy is built around video teaching that invites practical and relevant discussion among the small group members. So, the biggest challenge in making it work is coming up with enough quality content for many groups to choose. At Saddleback, it’s not uncommon to be asked, “what study can we do?” or “what new curriculum do we have?” There’s 2 ways of creating small group curriculums. One is to choose a topic and start from scratch to shoot and edit video teaching and provide questions to go along with the teaching. The second way is to use the Sunday sermon as the basis for small group curriculums. And it is this method that I want to describe in this post.
You (small group point people) are content creators! If you are a pastor, you may feel distant from the role of creating content, but we do it all the time, in fact, our predecessors have done it for thousands of years. Regardless of what our title in the church is, we make spiritual principles described in the Bible relevant and applicable to our members. The weekly sermon is a great example. And it’s great content to use for your weekly small group video teaching. Assuming that your members have attended the Sunday service or watched the Sunday service, you can make edits to the Sunday sermon so that it highlights the spiritual principles and applications. Then this can serve as the video teaching for your small groups.
With H.O.S.T. strategy, the big role of the small group leader is to facilitate discussions, and the big key for facilitating well is asking great questions. If you are just implementing this strategy to your small group, you can even start them off by giving them the discussion questions. Because the Sunday sermons are received individually, we can frame the questions to ask for those personal insights and implications. Questions that generate discussions are open-ended questions that ask “why” and “how.” “Ask” and “how” questions avoid short answers such as “yes” and “no” and requires participants to give more detailed answers.
The H.O.S.T. strategy can be used for both in-person groups and online groups, and with a simple email list you can deliver the video teaching and discussion questions for leaders to get ready for the small group. Gather the email address of the small group leaders who want to use this small group materials for their small group. Then, after every weekend messages, you can send a link to the video teaching along with a pdf or a word document for the discussion questions.
With these 3 steps, your church can enjoy alignment between Sunday message and Small Group discussions. If you’ve been thinking about launching small group online, this may be the first step that will get your church to start it. Here are some examples from Life Church and Saddleback Church.