Double Your Church

You can double your church in five years or less by equipping small groups to double every two years or less.

Small groups can be either home groups or on-campus, Sunday School style groups. As a term, the label “Sunday School” is falling out of use, and probably for good reasons. It is being replaced with a wide variety of terms such as “Adult Bible Fellowships,” “Life Groups,” or, the term I will use in this article, simply, “groups.” I mean this as an exclusive term to refer to any kind of group, regardless of where and when the group meets. As we equip these groups to double every two years or less, we can see the whole church double every five years or less. Obviously, if every group doubled every two years or less, you would double the whole church in two years or less. But, with rare exceptions, I don’t think that is realistic. I do think it is realistic that we can double the local church in five years by helping groups to double every two years or less.

This brings up a little-known secret of doubling churches. I do conferences for a living and am in over a hundred churches a year. About half of them are increasing in attendance, many of them growing rapidly. I had been in about three hundred doubling churches before I learned this. Here is the dirty little secret of growing churches: there are none. There are no growing churches. What I mean by that is that I know of no cases where any church as a whole is growing. What I see is churches with a handful of race-horse group leaders and a whole lot of other group leaders who are holding their own.

I actually tracked this when I was on church staff. I was on church staff for eleven years and enjoyed eleven consecutive years of growth. We grew from one service and one Sunday School to four services and four Sunday Schools. It looked like a growing church, but actually, it was not. It was a plateaued church with a handful of race-horse groups. Those groups were growing so fast that they caused the whole church to look like it was growing. Actually, it was just those race horse-groups that were creating nearly all of the growth. I actually tracked this a time or two and discovered that 90% of the growth of the church was coming from this small cadre of race-horse groups.

I don’t think it is realistic for most churches to get every one of their groups to double every two years or less, but I do think it is realistic that we can get enough groups doubling to double the entire church in five years or less. I see it working all the time. Here are a few snapshots I have seen in the last couple of weeks:

  • A church in Ohio has doubled in the last three years from 60 to 120 in attendance. The pastor told me that when he saw the title of my book he didn’t think it was realistic. When he started actually doing some of the things I suggested, the church took off.
  • I was in a downtown First Baptist Church in Texas recently. Out of the last 60 years, 58 of them have shown a plateau. They had two years of growth about thirty years ago. If you think your church is too tradition-bound and stuck in its ways, you might gain some inspiration from this church. They set a goal they called 2020 Vision. The goal was to start 20 groups in 20. They did it in 18, resulting in an increase in attendance of over 180. This is pretty typical for churches. Groups tend to average about twelve. (Come to think of it, the first Discipler had a group of twelve.) The Texas Church has recently set a goal of doubling the entire church in the next two years.
  • I got an email from a group leader in the St. Louis area yesterday. He has grown his group from 15 to about 70 in a over over three years. They now have twelve table-groups. When I was with him last, six months ago, they had eight table-groups. He teaches for half the time and the tables groups have discussions and pray for the remainder of the time.
  • No doubt the best known example of doubling groups is Andy Stanley’s Northpoint Community Church located north of Atlanta. Andy is deeply committed to doubling groups. Here is a quote from one of Andy’s messages:

“[Here is the thing about groups that is] the most motivating thing of all for us. … We [Sandra and I] have been in group a long time now, and … I believe that being in a community group that is committed to meet for a year-to-eighteen-months and dividing and a year-to-eighteen-months, and dividing again, I am convinced that if we stay in community group, and keep leading groups, that group gives Sandra and I more potential to impact more people directly and indirectly than anything else we could do together or alone, including my preaching on Sunday morning.

“I believe that together by being involved in a group Sandra and I have the potential to impact more people directly and indirectly in their relationship with Christ than anything else we could do together, or that I could do by myself. …This plan is simple. You don’t have to sing, dance, learn to play the guitar, speak in public, juggle…you don’t have to learn anything new. If you will simply get in a community group and allow God to do what he wants to do in you and through you and at the end of a year or eighteen months, start a new group, and do that for another year or eighteen months and start a new group, did you know that in nine years you would have impacted directly or indirectly over 640 people! … and these are not just fictitious numbers to me because I have been doing this for over nine years. And as Sandra and I look at the leaders in groups and the hundreds of people that are in groups as a result of our first group, this is a reality to us.

“Now, let me tell you something that will really blow your mind. If we could ever get our arms around this, we could make history together. You ready for this? Because of the number of people in our organization on all of our campuses that are already in small groups—just adults, not children, not college students, not high school students—if you just took the number of adults that we currently have in groups, if, over the next nine years we just continue to do group the way I have explained it, at the end of nine years we would have over half a million people in groups.”

This is not just an isolated example of Andy’s passion for doubling groups. Here is another excerpt from a different sermon given by Andy, some two years later:

“Summer is coming to an end and if your group is not up and running by Labor Day it is hard to get going back after that. Our group met three weeks ago.  We are dividing this Fall and Sandra says every time, “This is the best group we have ever had. I wish it never had to come to an end.” And, it has been an incredible, incredible group, we wish it wouldn’t come to an end. But every 18 months or so we divide our group and start new groups because we are so committed to this. We don’t need any new friends; I can hardly keep up with all the friends we have. But, we are so committed to this.”

As I reflected on this it hit me why this is working so well at Northpoint and why it is not working in many places. The pastor is standing before the people saying, “I am in a group that is doubling. I want you to be in a group that is doubling.”

As I reflected on this it hit me why this is working so well at Northpoint and why it is not working in many places. The pastor is standing before the people saying, “I am in a group that is doubling. I want you to be in a group that is doubling.”

 

How can a group double every two years or less?

I teach a simple, five step plan for doubling groups that spells out the word TIGER:

T

each a halfway decent lesson each and every week, nothing less will do. You don’t have to be Chuck Swindoll to double a class or group or church. You don’t have to be Zig Ziglar or Beth Moore to double it. It does have to be halfway decent each and every week, nothing less will do.

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nvite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. I teach a party-driven, hospitality-based strategy.  A couple of key verses on this include “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9 [NIV] and “get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner.” Romans 12:13b [Living] Jesus even told us who to invite: “Then he told the man who had invited him, “When you invite people for lunch or dinner, don’t invite only your friends.” Luke 14:12a [GW]

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ive Friday nights to Jesus. Inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month is an all-skate event. Because we are inviting everyone, there could well be a bit of a crowd there. Giving Friday nights to Jesus is a smaller, more informal, perhaps more spontaneous event. It is you and your wife having some friends over, then including some prospects for your group. These could be neighbors or people from work, or, they could be recent visitors to your church or absentees from your group. I have seen it happen more times than I can count: if we can get them to the party, we wouldn’t be able to keep them from group.

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ncourage the group toward ministry. People who like to party tend to not like to teach. And, people who like to teach tend to not be our church’s party animals. So, we want to double our group as a team. Let the party-planners plan the party, the inreach leaders invite every member, the outreach leader invite every prospect and the teacher teach a half-way decent lesson.

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eproduce your group. Ultimately, doubling a group is not so much about going from 10 to 20 members as it is about going from one group to two. A group of ten that embraces the vision of doubling and does so every eighteen months can reach a thousand people in ten years. (Go ahead; do the math.) But, you will never get a thousand people to attend your group. When must a group divide? Andy Stanley offers some helpful advice: if there is a back row, it is not a small group.

 

How do I get my teachers to do this?

Do you remember that old commercial for Esso gasoline that said, “Put a TIGER in your tank!” If we are going to put a tiger in our church, we need GASOLINE, or GAS for short:

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ive them a dream. Pastor, this is where we need your help. We need you to wave the flag and beat the drum for doubling groups. We need you to model being in a doubling group. In reflecting on a quote above from Andy I thought, “I don’t know that I have ever been in a church where the pastor consistently stood before the people and said, as Andy said, “I am in a group that is doubling. I want you to be in a group that is doubling.” The leaders must embody the vision.

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sk them to help. I work full-time training group leaders to double every two years or less and I can tell you that training is overrated in our churches. Training is overrated and what is underrated is recruitment. Who you recruit has far more to do with your success in getting groups to double than does training. Imagine you are coaching a group of sixth grade boys. Let’s imagine you have two choices: you can pick the most talented, most athletic, tallest, and fastest boys in the school, but you never get to practice, or you get the slowest, shortest, least athletic kids in the school and you get to practice every day. Who do you think would win? I would put my money on the talent every time. Recruit the best people you can to the job.

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how them how. Still, training matters. If you want your people to double your groups, show them how. I have a number of resources that may be of use to you. See www.joshhunt.com.

 

The key verse on doubling is found in 2 Timothy 2.2 “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” [NIV]

Pastor, I close with a question: Who is your Timothy? Into whose life are you speaking the words, “The things you heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be able to teach others.”

The power of doubling groups is truly amazing. You can double your entire church in five years or less by equipping groups to double every two years or less. In the power of Christ who strengthens us, you can do it.   

by Josh Hunt
Josh Hunt.com
Josh Hunt is author of The Amazing Power of Doubling Groups, 10 Marks of I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E. Teachers, You Can Double Your Church in Five Years or Less and many others. Read more from Josh at Josh Hunt
Originally published on SermonCentral.com. Used by permission.
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