Peter Englert – This Is How I Small Group

This Is How I Small Group is a periodic series getting to know members of the small group. Some will have decades of experience, others will be brand new to small group ministry. Each one has a unique perspective that makes them invaluable to their church and to the small group network.

  1. Name: Peter Englert  
  2. Current town: Rochester, NY  
  3. Current church: Browncroft Community Church / browncroft.org 
  4. Current job title: Adult Ministries Director  
  5. How long you’ve been in that role: August 2014 – 7 years 
  6. One word that describes how you work: Synergistic 

Q. How did you come to be in your role? Share about your background. 

A. I studied pastoral ministry at the University of Valley Forge. I ended up taking a detour as a college admissions counselor and then seminary admissions. These years formed me in a powerful way. They helped me see the reality of working a 40-hour work week outside the church. The role at Browncroft started because I moved to Rochester to marry my wife. I attended the church and a door open for the current position. 

Q. What does a typical workday look like for you? 

A. I typically do my best thinking and administrative work in the morning. I tend to plan my meetings in the afternoons. Mondays and Fridays are the most specifically focused on small groups. Mondays are when I meet with the Small Group Leadership Team which charts off the tasks for the week. Fridays are the days that I communicate with the small group leaders specifically sending the Group Guide for the upcoming Sunday service.  

Q. What about groups ministry have you been the most fulfilled by? 

A. The past year, we rolled out a Discipleship Pathway (click here to see) which small groups could plan their year based on the spiritual needs of the group. We asked small groups to plan their studies, prayer experience, and serve experience. The Pathway was based on the greater focus of the church which was our four spiritual habits – spend time with God, spend time with others, know and use your gifts, and share your faith.  

82% of our small groups completed their pathways. At Browncroft, we believe the small group is the central environment for discipleship. By the groups participating in this way, we saw them live out this vision for discipleship. 

Q. What tools, apps, subscriptions, etc are most helpful to you? 

A. Besides the Small Group Network resources, I use several tools: 

  • Church Community Builder (CCB) – I know there are several opinions on church management software. It has helped us with communication, metrics, and our small group leaders have utilized it for attendance.  
  • Browncroft Small Group Leader Facebook Group – I communicate to our leaders in Facebook. Recently, we’ve seen an uptick in leaders looking for content from other leaders. They’re sharing studies and resources. 
  • MailChimp – I send our small group leadership email through MailChimp. I’m able to see our open rate which has risen 20% in since the fall. Each email creates a shareable link that I can put in social media also. 
  • Canva – I produce our small group guide through Canva with the series branding. I’ve also used it for other graphics and presentations for Small Groups.  

Q. What are your best work tips or productivity hacks? 

A. My friend Mike introduced me to the model week. I have started to really put that into practice. It has allowed me to say “yes” and “no” more strategically. 

Secondly, I work with a leadership coach named Gary. He has really impressed me with the adage, “Go slow to go fast.” I’m learning not just to react to problems, but by truly listening to other people and agreeing on the actual problem, it allows you to discover a solution much faster. 

Q. What have been your biggest questions since you began your role and how would you say they’ve been answered? 

A. I think the biggest question I face and keeps me up at night is, “How are people spiritually growing?” No matter what church you serve, we’re all asking that question.  

As small group point people, we have the struggle of working with hard and soft data. It’s important for us to know the hard data of how many people are in groups and how many groups we have. It’s essential to have the soft data of stories that reaffirm the mission of life-change in Jesus.  

At the end of the day, responding to that question requires shared wins and goals. It means leaders identifying the same problem. We’re finding ways to do that and I’m still learning. 

Q. What is your current biggest struggle? 

A. There are three struggles that I’m processing through right now that I would call tensions. 

First, the tension of digital and in-person. The pandemic in some ways simplified in-person ministry. Churches had relied on Sunday mornings and small groups depending on the ministry context you serve. People changed during these last two years. Many of us are asking questions about when to gather or provide digital content. Ministry leaders are still trying to figure out how digital and in-person all works together. 

Second, the tension of simple versus complex. Small groups require a level of simplicity. Before I came to Browncroft, we had Sunday school classes and life-stage ministries. We moved from a Cheesecake Factory menu of ministries to In-N-Out Burger. In the last two years, we further cored down on small groups as the central environment for discipleship. Now there’s a positive struggle of what do people need from the church outside of small groups without going through unnecessary complexity. 

Third, the tension of de-centralized and centralized ministry. Small groups inherently de-centralize ministry unless you have them all on-campus and visible to see. For de-centralized ministries, it’s critical to establish key indicators and measures of growth. Even in a small group model there are certain aspects that need to be centralized.  

Q. Would you describe yourself as more of a processes person, or strategy/ideas person, or something else? 

A. Les McKeown, author and business leader has written about the different types of leaders based on this question. I took his test and landed as a synergist. That means I’m a little mix of vision, strategy, process, and operator. Most of the time, I try to sense the need for a situation and bring what the team needs. 

Q. Are you currently in a small group, and if so, what makes your small group unique? 

A. When I moved to Rochester, I joined the small group my wife led. The group was together about seven years before I started. We’ve walked with each other through significant trials and joys. I’m really thankful for the long-term relationships that we have built together. 

Q. In the time in your role, what are you most proud of? 

A. Tim Lucas in his book Liquid Church coined the phrase for me “staff volunteers.” These leaders serve almost at a staff level. The individuals in leadership that I current serve that volunteer are superb. They challenge me to be a better a leader. I see their spiritual gifts in operation. I’m so honored to serve with fantastic leaders at Browncroft. 

Q. If you could offer someone starting day one as a small group point person, 1 piece of advice, what would it be? 

A. Two things emerge for me. First, I wish I would have scheduled more coffees and listened. This goes back going slow to go fast. I think I rushed a few initiatives whereas I could have saved myself a few problems. 

Secondly, I would have built a leadership team. The moment the volunteer leaders of the small group ministry formed, Mary Ayala and Char Reeves, things changed so much for the better. I tried to do things on my own which was a mistake. 

Q. Who would you most like to see answer these questions (either because you want to know what they have to say or because you think everyone else should hear what they have to say) 

A. I really hope that church staff and volunteers would use a discussion like this one to chat together. Whenever I share resources, I hope that multiple levels of leaders are having conversations together. I have a passion to see the appropriate silos come down to do the ministry God has called us to do. 

Have a question or an insight? Leave it below!

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