Several of our groups will need to reproduce themselves this year. They are growing beyond the point at which they can effectively be formative, caring, and missional. If you are a driver facing this opportunity, here are some encouraging words for you:
Thanks to Bud Brown for this article.
“I love these people, I don’t want to sacrifice these relationships! It took a lot of long, hard work to build this, and now you want us to give it up? No way!”
This common refrain breaks out among small group participants whenever the subject of expanding existing groups to produce new ones comes up. It is just as predictable as that vile “Fight On” song played by the USC band every time the Trojans move the football 10 yards.
Even though this woeful chorus is the bane of every church’s small group ministry, I understand! It took my “intended” the better part of two years before she liked me enough to say, “I do!” I sure wouldn’t want to have to do that again.
Why should groups reproduce?
Bearing in mind that I’m focusing on “growth groups” here rather than fellowship or service of “let’s get acquainted” groups, there are plenty of reasons why groups should be regularly producing new groups.
* It is a sign of health – mature believers who have been “incubated” in their group naturally minister to others and share their faith with outsiders. This attracts people to the group and causes it to grow! At some point – around 15 or so – the group must produce more groups if it is to remain healthy!
* It blesses others with the group’s blessings – A highly effective small group becomes a channel of God’s blessing in the lives of its members. Through the group process, in the exercise of the members’ giftedness, by means of the service and outreach activities and in numerous other ways the group blesses its members, enabling them to experience the joy of greater intimacy with the Father, the thrill of increased influence with outsiders, and the benefits of deeper Christian fellowship. Spinning off two new groups blesses those outside the group, and it expands the original group’s influence!
* It keeps the group from plateauing – Remember, the purpose of groups as we’ve designed them is to intentionally focus on the spiritual maturation of those who participate in these authentic biblical communities. If the group has stagnated – no one else moving in and no one moving out – then there comes a time when the members of the group can no longer help one another grow; the group has gone as far as it can go. That doesn’t mean that the folks in the group don’t love one another, do enjoy fellowshipping together, and don’t engage in productive ministries. But without a fresh mix of spiritual gifts entering the group they will eventually walk as far as they can with each other and will go no further.
* It enriches everyone’s life – The big fear everyone voices is the fear of loss when it is time to open up and produce a new group. But the reality is that when the reproduction process is handled skillfully people experience great gain rather than great loss! How so? Just as a husband and wife find their sphere of love and joy expanded as children are added to their family, the members of a small group find their lives enriched as they spin off and make additional new friends!
Strategies: Preparing your group for growth
The wise small group leader will recognize the objection – and there is really only one objection, the fear of loss – and prepare to deal with it ahead of time!
* Sow the seed from day one – This is one of the items that ought to be covered in the group covenant.
* Talk about it – When your group has left Stage II and entered Stage III, toss in occasional phrases that remind the folks that one day they’ll be producing new groups. When there’s a particuarly moving moment comment, “You know, even after we’ve spun off other groups out of this one, we’ll still get together from time to time and enjoy these kinds of moments.”
* Get them used to new leadership – This is one reason why we want our group leaders in training one night per month, and we don’t want them in their group that week! The group needs to get used to the leadership of other people. That will make it easier for them to follow someone else when that moment comes.
* Talk about mission – Nothing keeps an outward, servant focus like service projects, mission activity, and occasionally reminding them of Jesus’ commission to the Church.
Thanks to Bud Brown for this article.