This is part two of two. View part one here.
At Saddleback Church, we have adopted a methodology that has helped us take our small group ministry from 280 adult small groups to over 3,500 adult small groups over the last twelve years. Since 2004, we have had more people in our small groups than in our weekend attendance. How has this happened? What is our methodology for ensuring evangelism still takes place?
We have found two things to be true. One, it is far easier to start a new group than to get an existing group to multiply. I learned to avoid division by stopping talk of multiplication. Now we add. Two, it is also easier to empower a new person to start a new group with a couple of friends they already have than place them in an existing group of people they may or may not know (or like). We call this the Two Friend’s Rule—if you have two friends you can start the journey and begin a group! If you don’t have two friends…well, uh…there might be another issue.
have many sub strategies, is our Campaign Strategy. See Small Groups With Purpose, Chapter 17 for more information. This Campaign Strategy is something we do once a year, usually in the fall. We align the five learning modes around a central compelling question and implement it throughout the church, from the children to the adults. Everyone is on the same page, with a similarly themed sermon series, and delivery of additional materials through the small group system. Roll these factors together and the result is exponential growth and alignment in your small groups. If you don’t have small groups, this strategy is the perfect way to begin them. If you do have small groups, but they all seem to be going in different directions, this is the perfect way to align them.
So, how long do we allow our groups to continue meeting? We let our groups go for life, if they like. We don’t tell them that ahead of time, we let them discover that! Letting our groups focus on building community helps instill some natural by-products. First, it helps them see that you care about their spiritual health and the community needs they have. It also builds trust and opens communication for you to teach evangelism in a safe way that won’t disrupt community in the process.
A common question I get asked at almost all of our conferences, is if you don’t encourage groups to multiply, won’t they become “Us Four and No More” or “Us Seven till We Get to Heaven”? Again, just because we don’t birth groups, it doesn’t mean we don’t have the people in the groups do personal evangelism—we do! So if they don’t add people to their group, but still effectively do personal evangelism; then it is a win/win. Also, my experience has been, even when you don’t plan to add people to the group—you do. People move, schedules change, life stage changes happen. There are many factors that influence the dynamics of the group. Whatever the factors, however, a group has two options: either it will dwindle to nothing or organically grow.
A key component to launching Groups For Life is to use the yearly Campaign to give people a reason to leave their group. The pastor needs to challenge the people in the group to leave annually. Why? Because leaving a group is hard when you launch it for life. People need a reason to leave, and the pastor asking them to is a great reason. It may be that they just aren’t gelling with their current group, or it may be that God as plans for them to step it up and begin leading another group. Whatever the reason, you need to provide them with an easy out. Over the years three couples have left my small group and started new groups during a Campaign…never to come back. Is that bad? No. Is that strategic? You bet!