Is Small Group or Network Leadership the Best Next Step for Your Emerging Leaders?

If you had four (4) emerging leaders at your church how would you want them to use their influence in leadership?  As four new Small Group leaders or as four new leaders in a Network?

As a church Gateway has been moving into a new strategy season of implementing Networks, not just Small Groups, into our church.  A Network is a hyper-local group of 30-70 people that are primarily neighborhood based (there are some affinity Networks).  The Network is made up of people in Small Groups and individuals who are committed to making a city impact where they live while growing in community together.

Small Group Model

Our past model would have put all four of these new leaders into a Small Group Leadership position.  They would each start a new group for ten people (just a round number, it could be more or less).  We would ask them to invite some friends to join the group and we would also send people to them who are trying to connect at our church.  We would end up with four leaders leading four Small Groups with forty people connected.  Our hope is that people would explore and take steps to follow Jesus together growing in maturity.  Eventually some would become new Small Group leaders.

4 Small Groups

Network Model

However, in our new Network Model, we would want to put these four people into several different leadership roles.  First, we want to identify a Network Leader.  The Network Leader is someone who can lead 30 to 70 people with vision, energy, and mission in mind.  They are the direction setters for a Network of people making an impact in the city through community and service.

We would also identify a Serve Coach.  This is the person who would organize meeting the spiritual and physical needs in the neighborhood and the modern day orphans and widows in the city for the Network.  Their role is to move people from Exposure to needs, Experiences to serve others practically and finally for equipping people to be Engaged in loving others relationally in their serving. Small Groups and individuals in the Network would partner with the Serve Coach to serve well and make new relational connections in the neighborhood so the un-churched in the city eventually become the church.

The last two roles of leadership in a Network would be two Small Group Leaders.  They create intentional community for people exploring and growing on the way of Christ.  It is a pretty high commitment in the group to train spiritually to grow and eventually multiply leadership for new Small Groups.  It does not have to be the first point of assimilation for people because the Network has other places for people to connect.  It can be a more discipleship group.  However, at least one of the two Small Groups needs to be an Open group for new people to connect from the Network.

Gatherings and Events in a Network Each Month

The gatherings each month for the Network look something like this.  A once a month Social, party or meal for the Network that could meet on a Sunday morning after a church service or some other time that month.  This event helps assimilate and connect people relationally to the Network.  There is also a once a month Serving Event organized by the Serve Coach.  It is to help give people get Exposure and Experience in serving.  The ultimate goal is moving people to Engage in serving others relationally.  People are also going to their Small Group every/other week.  The final event in a Network is a Crowded House, led by the Network Leader, where the core Network leaders and owners of the mission meet together for a meal, story telling, worship through singing, prayer, communion and Bible discussion.  The Crowded House fuels the Network for the next month.

Network Model

Network Model Video

This is a story of how a Network would feel for a couple that is new to faith and checking out church.  See what their experience might be like in a Network Model.

Network Stories at Gateway Church in 2011

John Burke, lead pastor at Gateway, used a Sunday morning message recently to talk about our Network strategy and the stories of what is happening around the city of Austin.  Find out how Networks are doing through these stories.

–video coming soon. here.

What’s the bottom line.  Four leaders, leading four Small Groups, with forty people connected.  Or four leaders, one a Network leader, one Serve Coach, and two Small Group leaders connecting forty people (twenty in Small Groups and twenty individuals).  What is the potential result of these two models?

Which one is more on mission?  Which one has the potential for greater growth in community?  Which one will serve more people?  Is there something too simplistic or complicated about these models?

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Kirby Holmes
Kirby Holmes is a Groups and Growth Pastor at Gateway Church in Austin, TX. Gateway is a No Perfect People Allowed church where we often say Come as You Are…but Don’t Stay as You Are. Half of the people who attend Gateway would say they were far from God when they started attending. Gateway is a place where God is helping un-churched messy people become beautiful masterpieces of God’s design. Twitter: @KirbyHolmes Web: www.KirbyHolmes.me Church: www.GatewayChurch.com