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5 Assumptions That Stunt Small Group Ministry Growth

King Solomon said “there is nothing new under the sun.”  I’ve been at this a long time and am convinced he had stumbled on a true truth of life.  That said, it follows that there are certain assumptions that come up over and over again and lead to a dead end every time.

Here are 5 that pop up all the time:

  1. Adding members to existing groups builds group health.  This assumption refers to the practice of sending reinforcements to groups that have members drop out or can’t seem to keep people coming.  Given the choice, it’s almost always more productive to start new groups, as opposed to propping up existing groups.  Groups that need help finding new members are rarely healthy and almost never the best option for genuine connection on the part of a new member.  When dealing with this issue, I often point out that I am a Darwinist.  I believe in the survival of the fittest.
  2. Apprenticing is about multiplication.  Not.  Apprenticing, in most cases, may be about leadership development but is almost never the best avenue of group multiplication.  Offering a single small group connection or launching a church-wide campaign every fall will almost always start more new groups and identify more new leaders than an apprenticing strategy.  Should every leader be working to replicate themselves?  Yes.  Should every leader be working themselves out of a job?  Yes.  Does the apprenticing strategy lead to more groups and more people in groups?  No…or at least, not as quickly as several other more effective strategies.
  3. “Depth” leads to life-change.  What most Christians need is not depth or an understanding of deeper teaching.  Most of us just need to do what we already understand.  That is within the grasp of the most basic and simplest teaching in an environment of encouragement and challenge.  The eleven men to whom Jesus entrusted the Great Commandment needed an explanation of some of His most basic teachings.  They didn’t have time to long for deeper or depth.  They were too busy doing basic.
  4. Rows and circles produce the same thing.  There may be a place for rows (a metaphor for instruction), but rows do not offer the same experience as circles (a metaphor for discussion and interaction).  Offering the two as interchangeable options leads to something other than the optimal environment for life-change.
  5. There is a small group system that will solve all your problems.  There is no question in my mind that the pursuit of problem-free delays more ministry than any thing else.

Want do you think?  Have one to add?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.  

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Mark Howell serves as Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. He founded SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services to help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He spent four years on the consulting staff at Lifetogether and often contributes to ministry periodicals such as the Pastor's Ministry Toolbox and ChurchCentral.com.