There is no perfect small group system. I wish there was, but there’s no one formula that will work for every church, meet everyone’s needs, and grow an active, healthy, outward-focused ministry.
That little confession leads us to today’s discussion. I’ve read lots of books on small groups, but I haven’t found “the” way to do them. Our church has more than 600 people in groups, but we’re still learning how groups “work best.”
One challenge for us is that many of the small groups are closed. A lot have good reasons – they’re more “support” groups than our typical small groups, they’re too big already and just don’t have more room for new people, etc. But there’s a challenge there. Personally, how do we continue to grow if we aren’t being stretched to welcome new people in? Organizationally, how do we grow the ministry if there is no room in existing groups? Obviously, one way is to start new groups, but I’ve found it takes a special person to start a group from scratch. There are a lot more people able to lead a group that already exists – one that has a culture, a momentum, and most importantly, members!
Healthy small groups have two important values – they’re open to each other and they’re open to others. Funny thing is, those values have to be held in tension. The group I’m a part of on Sunday nights is an amazing group. In the year we’ve been meeting, we’ve grown from one person showing up on a Sunday night to 16 people. The openness to new people has continually brought new life and perspective into the group. But I’ve also noticed that the bigger we get, the less some people share. Being open and growing hurts the other openness – of the individuals.
That means it’s time to multiply, right? Well, here’s the deal. That hasn’t ever really worked here. I don’t know of many places where this “multiplication” thing does work well. You spend time investing in people and becoming friends, and then you’re expected to split in half and never see each other again? That’s not how relationships work, and it seems counter-intuitive. Why would I want to invite new people if it just means it’ll mess up our group?
Many of those groups I mentioned above that are closed are open to inviting new people, they just don’t have room, and they haven’t been shown a good way to multiply. So how does your church handle small groups and multiplication? Do they do anything? I’ll tell you what we’re trying soon…