The Five Biggest Obstacles to Making Disciples in Groups and Classes

By Michael C. Mack

Discipleship and small group ministers were asked, “What is the biggest obstacle you’d like to figure out how to overcome in your ministry?” Here are the top five responses:

1. “How to teach people to slow down so they have time for relationships—with God, their family, and one another,” says Jim Egli of Urbana, Illinois. Kim James of Los Altos, California, blames the lack of relationships on “too many activities and offerings at church, which dilutes the importance of small groups as a model for discipleship and relationships. In essence, we are ‘too busy’ at church.” Tony Sanchez, from Lincoln, Nebraska, adds, “A wise man once told me that ‘balance’ is a falsity. Life is more like a pendulum swing. We simply find peace while it swings in the middle.”

11_BP_soccer_JN2. “Idol worship in the form of kids’ sports. I believe this is a phenomenon that’s been snowballing over the past 20 years and getting worse,” said Sanchez. “Families with kids from 6 to 18 are ‘pressured’ to involve their kid(s) on ‘select’ team(s) at an earlier and earlier age. I’ve heard some efforts have been made at reaching out and tapping into families at courts and fields, but I’m not sure how effective these have been.”

3. A failure to guide people from connection to discipleship as groups form and then mature, says Bill Donahue, president of the LeadershipSync Group in West Dundee, Illinois. Chuck Bahn of Normal, Illinois, says he sees a “lack of desire [on the part of some church members] to be in fellowship with others to grow in their faith and relationships with others.”

4. A breakdown in “moving people from learner to leader,” says Jay Daniel of Norfolk, Nebraska. Craig Tucker, adult ministries/small groups minister at Central Christian Church in Kansas, puts it this way: “The biggest obstacle to small group growth is the number of people who are unwilling to step out of their comfort zone and lead a group—the ‘making disciples’ part of the Great Commission that many choose to ignore.”

5. “Our post-Christian culture impacting our young adults,” says Paul Lewis of Goodyear, Arizona.

Michael Mack is the author of 14 small group books and discussion guides, including I’m a Leader . . . Now What?(Standard Publishing). He also leads church training events and consults with churches through his ministry, Small Group Leadership (

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