Home Small Group Leaders Articles for Small Group Leaders What Bamboo Teaches Us About Small Groups

What Bamboo Teaches Us About Small Groups

Bamboo is a fascinating grass. It resembles many of the aspects of a healthy church community that is multiplying spiritually.

Characteristics of Bamboo Growth

Bamboo produces new canes (culms) in the spring. These shoots emerge out of the ground and grow in height and diameter for around 60 days. During this 60-day period, it will produce limbs and leaves. After the 60-day period of growth, this bamboo cane does not grow in height or diameter again. It will put on new foliage every year, and typically a cane last for 10 years. Bamboo is a member of the grass family. It is a colony plant, so it uses energy from this existing plant to produce more plants the next year, increasing the size of the colony.

The new plants will grow in the same manner. New shoots emerge to turn into a cane with limbs and leaves within a 60-day period. It takes bamboo about three years to get established. Once established, the new shoots that emerge in the spring (they will still only grow for 60 days) will continue to get bigger and more numerous from year to year. It takes a varying number of years (4-15) for different species to reach their maximum size. This is dependent on species selection, soil, sunlight, climate, and watering conditions.

Similarities to Our Church Community

A community of Christ followers has many similarities to the bamboo grass. The interconnected root system of bamboo is what creates a colony. God created people with the need for interconnectedness. Being made in God’s image, the three-in-one-God, we are created with inherent elements for interconnectedness. The connecting roots of relationships are what support the visible community. However, we each develop as individual canes, depending on the conditions around us. Just like the soil, sunlight, climate, and watering conditions for bamboo we each grow with individual uniqueness and identity based on these conditions. The climate conditions of the colony impact the individual canes. The growth process never ends for a Christ follower as new leaves grow every year.

Similarities to Spiritual Multiplication

I love the imagery of bamboo growth for spiritual multiplication. Notice how bamboo grows quickly in the first 60 days to its mature height and diameter. The future energy of the individual cane is not in growing itself taller and wider but in growing new canes. Its resources are used in creating a root system that pushes new canes into existence. Colony growth is what each cane participates together to accomplish. Sure, each year the individual canes have their own foliage growth, but it is in multiplication that the colony maximizes its potential.

Future Vision of Church Community

Jesus built a bamboo community. Interconnected followers. Each growing in what it means to live in the Kingdom of God. Each being sent to multiply two by two. Pushing up new canes of interconnected relationships as the early church emerged. Every time one of Jesus’ disciples asked him about growing taller and wider, a.k.a. James and John sitting at his right and left hand in political power, Jesus responded with – grow down not up. Serve others, not yourselves. Create new canes. Through love and service, connect people into the colony of Christ.

At Gateway, we have used the language of 3G multiplication with our leaders. It is language that describes the value of spiritual multiplication. 3G means 3 Generations. Just like Paul asked Timothy to teach faithful men who will also teach others. There are three generations of influence and colony building in this passage in II Timothy 2:2. We have built training to promote and provide skills for living as a colony creating community that multiplies. We call it our Life Group training.

Small Group Multiplication

Small groups that are an end in themselves are not colony creators. Small group leaders must lead people with a perspective that every member of the group has the potential to mature in height and width so that they can expend their energy not just on themselves but in growing the colony. 3G Leadership.

How is your church building bamboo community that multiplies? What resources are helping you lead effectively in building expanding colonies of Christ followers?