Making Large Group/Small Groups Work in a Limited Space

Getting creative

by Brent Colby / November 3, 2015

It was the first Sunday in the multipurpose room and I could see that it wasn’t going to end well. Things were in total chaos and we hadn’t yet transitioned to small groups. How was I going to successfully manage a large group/small group ministry when we didn’t have the space? I had successfully relocated from an old school building into the new auditorium. Sure it was smaller, but it had the accoutrements of an expansion project: better location, media, carpet, lighting, and security. I had convinced everyone that it was a good move. However, the one problem that I had failed to address was staring me right in the face: we didn’t have enough space.

It is possible to run a healthy children’s ministry with limited room. Your ministry model will be restricted by your church facility, but don’t be discouraged. Every restriction you face is an opportunity to lead out of mission-focused creativity. Becoming a mission-focused leader requires you to look past conventional solutions in order to accomplish the main goals of your church. Consider this one big question to make the most out of your room. How many unique environments do you need to create per service?

A ministry environment is made up of many elements: paint, lights, music, open space, and smells to name a few. Most of us settle on a single environment for our entire service. This is okay if you are trying to create one-dimensional disciples. But most of us aim higher than that and recognize that worship, prayer, giving, and learning work best under different settings.

Grab a sheet of paper and write down each unique phase of ministry that takes place during your service. It may include some of the following:

  • check-in time

  • free time

  • worship

  • games

  • announcements

  • offering

  • missions

  • teaching

  • small groups

  • reflection time

Take this list and begin to describe how each of these should feel. Should you include background music? Perhaps you could dim the lights? Are kids talking or listening? How long should the segment last? Worship should sound different than when you’re preaching. It should also feel different in the many ways.

Now you are on your way to maximizing the space that you have by creating unique environments for each phase of ministry. Our transitions to large group/small group plans often fail because we fail to make the best of our facilities.

After the inaugural “train-wreck Sunday” in the new room, we made a few changes. We decided to turn down the lights for small group time and play some background music. We had kids sit on “team blankets” that were color coordinated for their age group. This kept each group close by creating boundaries for the huddle and maximized the space between the huddles. We also made sure to have a central focal point for each small group time. This was an activity or object that would literally be placed in the center of the group in order to keep the focus on the right thing. These small changes helped us create a more effective small-group environment in the same large-group space. We were able to transform the room and the expectations of everyone in it. You can do the same!