In their book, Exponential, Dave and Jon Ferguson wrote the following statement, “We’ve coached hundreds of churches that want to reproduce new sites. Without question, the churches that are most successful are those that have, in place, a culture of reproducing small groups.”
One of the reasons my church (Real Life Church, Sacramento, CA; Pastors Scott and Karen Hagan), has a vision for reproducing groups, is that we also have a vision for reproducing church sites. At the time I am writing this we are a nine-year church plant with five other church sites outside of our Sacramento Campus.
I am aware of many churches that have a vision of starting new campuses but they don’t have an intentional focus on starting new groups. Having small groups that are multiplying may not be a requirement for success in every instance, but there are some significant parallels to take into consideration.
Below are 10 elements that reproducing groups have in common with reproducing churches…
1. Desire to start something new. The pre-season before my high school football team won a state championship, myself and the other seniors chose a tagline as a theme for that year. On the back of our practice shirts it said the following: “If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” The concept was that if we set uncommon goals and uncommon standards for ourselves, we would go to uncommon places and see uncommon things happen.
A small group that desires to see their group turn into many groups is still an uncommon vision today. It’s uncommon because most people don’t want something new; instead, most people want something familiar.
An environment full of existing groups that want to see new groups launched is healthy soil for sowing vision about launching new churches. This leads me to my next point…
2. Speaking vision to potential leaders. In order to reproduce small groups, you have to deposit vision into people who aren’t currently leading. You have to look them in the eye and call forth their leadership potential. Building this type of muscle memory through the groups ministry allows a body of believers to flex when needed and call forth new pastors and leaders for new church extensions and services.
3. Cultivating new leaders. I hear many pastors complain that they don’t have enough volunteers. This reminds me of a mentor I had who said, “Leaders don’t grow on trees. You have to develop them yourself.”
Apprenticing green group leaders conditions a church for the task of cultivating new leaders of leaders.
4. Transferring responsibility to new leaders. If you’re going to raise-up new small group leaders, you’re going to have to give new people more responsibility and ownership. For some odd reason, human nature can resist giving ministry away. The rhythm of passing the baton of leadership for new churches can be nurtured on a grass roots level with a heart to enlist more people into the mission of group life.
5. Culture of SENDING. You can’t multiply churches when you’re also trying to amass power and centralize resources. Jesus demonstrated a decentralized mindset when He sent his small group out two-by-two to bring the gospel to new homes in new towns (Luke 9:1-4).
Having a culture of “sending” is a can’t-miss-ingredient to plant new sites and communities. Small groups that are releasing new leaders to start new groups can make the process of “sending” second-nature to a church.
6. Risk-taking faith. It’s an adventurous process for a rookie group leader to take a step of faith and attempt to do something they have never done before. It’s a vulnerable feeling to put yourself out there and begin something fresh for God’s kingdom.
What if it fails? What if I make a mistake? What if nobody shows up? What if people are disappointed with me? These are all the common questions a new group leader will have to overcome internally. It’s all risky-business.
The good news is, “God rewards faith.“ Thus, multiplying groups becomes the training ground for a church to practice the same trust it will need to multiply churches.
7. Asking for sacrifice. When you ask people to plant a new group or a new campus, you’re asking them to sacrifice. You’re asking them to give more of themselves. You’re asking them to increase their commitment towards a spiritual endeavor. You’re asking them for more of their time, resources, effort and emotion.
Some churches have hesitated to ask their people to sacrifice out of a fear of rejection, while others have avoided it out of ignorance. Getting people more acquainted with the habit of kingdom sacrifice can be fostered through thriving group life and then refined in church planting.
8. Willingness to get out of comfort zones. Change makes people strange. Most believers gravitate towards predictability. The problem is, Jesus is in the business of telling us to “get out of the boat.” The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, which makes Him irrelevant if we’re already comfortable.
Exhorting your groups to birth new groups will challenge the same comfort zones your organization will face in birthing a movement.
9. Inviting New People. To get any ministry off the ground, leaders have to be able to rally new people to the new dream. This is true for young groups and young churches.
Both undertakings require the same instincts of reaching out and gathering.
10. Determination to forge a foundation. The process of establishing a new group is a smaller, but similar, pattern of establishing a new congregation. Once the initial burst of adrenaline and excitement is gone, there must be enough perseverance to form relationships and solidify a collective identity.
Entrepreneurial groups, that successfully sink their roots down deep, adopt realistic expectations about what it takes to anchor a new work for God. It’s the identical psychological toughness needed for church multiplication.
In conclusion, I believe that reproducing groups can be the seed for reproducing churches. Groups that experience a multiplication carry a DNA that can be scaled into bands of leaders with a contagious attitude to expand His church to new horizons.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below…