I've joined a discipleship forum for a large denomination, even though I'm not in that denomination. They've graciously approved my membership and I'm enjoying what I am learning and contributing there. This morning, a pastor wrote this about his newfound experiences with holistic small groups in his latest church plant:
"I'm finding that as people build relationships, the small groups just seem to erupt on their own and are much more organic than planned. I'm looking for a way to sustain them, not control them, and allow them to develop mentors for other small groups. Maybe these groups will fare better with minimal centralized control with more relaxed leadership around the edges. I don't know, but I do know that I've stopped trying to manufacture growth and fellowship. It sounds sloppy (and it is) but it's closer to a cell-type structure than anything I've seen in a local church in a long time."
This really summarizes much of what I've been saying for a couple of years now. You can't manufacture growth and fellowship by launching a bunch of groups with untrained members and hastily trained leaders.
Yes, you read that right. The first and greatest error made in small group ministry implementation is not selecting and then training future members of the first groups. The more missional the members, the easier it will be to lead them and the lower the bar must be for the group's leadership, including the coach and the staff pastor who undergirds their efforts to love God, love one another, and love the lost to Christ.
Right now I'm reworking a resource my father created twenty years ago called Life Basic Training. He created it for churches who desired to transition to groups. It's a "bootcamp" of sorts for incoming small group members, helping them examine their current values to see where they might conflict with God's values so they can be discarded.
Pastors who used it were surprised that everyone who started it did not complete it and then join a group. The material forced them to reconcile their beliefs and practices with God's Word and they were unwilling to die to their comfort, or personal agendas, or worldly practices to take up the cross and live as Christ commands.
The same pastors were also surprised at how well the groups did with people who had completed the pre-group process. Those groups could easily be described in the same was as the quote above. Low maintenance. Low control. High touch, and with a desire to leave and start a new group so more people could experience what they found in their small group.
Why more churches do not have a pre-group process in place for incoming members (from the ungrouped part of the congregation or from other churches when the person transfers in) is beyond me. Having no bar whatsoever (vs. setting it low or high) creates far more damage to the church, the groups, and the members than one can imagine.
I wrote about this whole issue in my book, but if you want to learn more about it feel free to contact my offices and we can talk about your church's situation and how to include a pre-group process to explain what healthy group membership requires and the benefits derived from it. I can be contacted at 713-884-8893.
Keep winning for Christ!