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Small Group Ministry Myths That Need Busting (Part 1)

Ilove the Discovery Channel show MythBusters. The show has a simple premise: The MythBusters team “proves and disproves urban legends and popular misconceptions using a signature style of explosive experimentation.” The myths and misconceptions that get tested range from the absurd (can you herd cats?) to the profound (could Luke Skywalker really swing himself and Leia across a chasm with only his belt-rigged grappling hook). Very fun.

But you know…sometimes I run across a small group ministry myth that really needs to be busted. You know what I’m talking about?

Here are five small group ministry myths that I believe need busting:

1. An important key to growing the number of groups in your small group ministry is for every leader to have an apprentice.

2. Small groups are an effective way to connect people but ineffective at making disciples.

3. Small group leaders and members know best what they need to study.

4. High entry requirements for leaders ensures the safety of the flock and gives members a model to follow.

5. Only new small group leaders need a coach.

Here’s a look at the first small group ministry myth that needs busting:

Myth #1: An important key to growing the number of groups in your small group ministry is for every leader to have an apprentice.

What do you think? Is that idea part of your philosophy of grouplife? Based generally on cell group philosophy and particularly the Meta Church model, the essence of the practice of developing an apprentice is to replace yourself. The genius of apprenticing is that it makes it theoretically possible for a small group to grow and birth every 12 to 18 months. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Do it enough times and you connect everyone to a group. Theoretically.  

Truth: It turns out that while apprenticing is a powerful leadership development practice (the best resource I’ve found for developing an apprentice is Community Christian Church’s Developing an Apprentice), it is only occasionally a dependable method of multiplying groups.  Oh, the idea sounds good on paper:

1. Recruit an apprentice

2. Grow your group to 12 people over a 12 to 18 month season

3. Birth a new group where the apprentice takes 6 and the leader keeps 6

4. Now you have 2 groups

5. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Apprenticing as a group multiplication strategy does sound good, but has two major flaws.

a. First, a high percentage of “apprentices” turn out to actually be co-leaders or assistants who have no intention of leaving the group. You will always want to verify the number of apprentices who actually leave their group to launch a new group.  

b. Second, if you need to grow your number of groups by 50 to 100% you are probably not going to be able to wait the 12 to 18 months it will take to develop an apprentice. There are much more productive ways to launch new small groups and there is almost always a desperate urgency to connect unconnected people.  

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mark@smallgroupresources.net'
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.