Small Groups


This section discusses topics specific to small group management. 

Group Structure

There are several common small group structures. All of these are supported and MinistryPlatform can be extended to support variations:
  • Home-based groups: Often consist of groups organized by geographic regions.
  • Sunday School: Groups are generally divided according to age or stage of life. These generally reflect the departments of the church.
  • Cell: Groups descend from other groups.  Accountability exists between the parent group and child group through a teacher/disciple relationship between the leaders.

Regardless of your structure, each group should be setup in the Groups page in MinistryPlatform and given the group type of "Small Group".  This group type can be renamed appropriately for your church.

Additionally, you should determine how you handle these fields on the Group record:

  • Ministry: Sunday School model may require that this value reflects the department that oversees the group.  Cell and Home-based models may have a single ministry assigned to all groups.
  • Congregation: Multi-site churches should set the correct Congregation for each group. For on-site groups, this is the congregation where the group meets. For home-based groups this may be the most geographically proximate congregation. This field is searchable on Group Finder.
  • Parent Group: This field is searchable on Group Finder:
    • Home-based groups may want to make the Parent Group the geographic region (community/area):
      • The parent group might be called "Northwest Community".
      • Additional tiers in the structure might exist like "Greater Cityville Area".  This area would be the parent group of the "Community".
      • The person who oversees the community or area is the contact person of the group.
    • Home-based groups may also elect to make the parent group the coach/pastor who is responsible for that group: 
      • The parent group might be called "Coach Bob Smith's Groups".
      • Bob Smith may be the Primary Contact of that group.
      • Each of the group leaders of a group overseen by Bob may be participants in his group.
      • Each group overseen by Bob has this group listed as the Parent Group.
    • Sunday School groups may want to make the Parent Group a subset of the Ministry. For example, for Children's Ministry, this might be "Elementary".  For Adult Ministry this might be "Empty Nesters".
    • Cell groups may want to make this the group of the person who disciplined the leader of this new group.


Visitors to the church website can use the Portal's Group Finder page to identify a group that fits their life stage and schedule. From this application, the person can inquire about a group or sign up for a group. A SPoC can setup a Process to notify the right people in either case that someone has inquired or joined their group. The Group Leader can follow-up with either of an inquiry or signup from the Portal's My Groups page.

While the Group Finder works well as a passive self-serve tool, some churches have made the Group Finder more readily available.
  1. A computer in your lobby can be directed to the Portal's Group Finder page. A custom Portal skin can even be created to have more of a kiosk feel.
  2. Church staff can use the New Message Tool in MinistryPlatform to email people who are not currently in a small group an invitation directing them to Group Finder. It may also be helpful to promote specific groups with direct link to their page on the Portal (to do so, visit that group's page from the Group Finder and copy the URL to include the correct one in your email).

Marking Attendance

There are many ways to take attendance for your small groups.  Each of these approaches is covered in a different section of our Knowledge Base:

Remember, people can be added to Groups or to Events. Events and Groups are separate, but related concepts in MinistryPlatform. The tools described above add a person to an Event and reference the correct Group record at the same time.

Group attendance is only different from regular attendance in one respect. In addition to knowing who attended the Event, we know they attended that Event as someone who has a role in a Group. In this sense, an attendance record in MinistryPlatform is always found in the Event Participants page. It is always visible from an open Event or Participant record.  A subset of a person's attendance history may also be visible if you open one of their Group Participant records.