Expanding the Neighborhood through Small Groups

How do we minister to neighborhoods that are so diverse?

The primary mission field (the new "neighborhood" of mission) is defined by the average distance people within your zip code are willing to drive to work and to shop. The US Census will give you the average drive time to work, and a conversation with your friendly shopping mall developer will reveal the average drive time to shop. Your question is: How can I multiply small groups across the demographic and the lifestyle segment diversity within the primary mission field? The old neighborhood of Mr. Rogers has taken a turn for the diverse.

Therefore, standardized curricula and uniform group processes are going to have to become more flexible. Most churches are still too "modern" in their approach to small groups … too programmatic, imitative, and too "cookie cutter" in their approach. The small group that works successfully with the clientele at Starbucks just is not going to transfer to the crowd at the bowling alley. Here is the emerging strategy in the increasingly fragmented mission field:

  1. Focus on leadership development, not program replication. Spend more time mentoring leaders, sensitizing them to the micro-cultures of the mission field, aligning them to the mission, and training them to be entrepreneurs. If you spent 5 hours training leaders, spend 10 hours. If you spent 10 hours, spend 30 hours. The diversity of the mission field means that there is even more probability for failure, even more necessity to learn from mistakes, and even more challenge to let small group leaders mutually mentor themselves.

  2. Focus on boundaries, not tactics. We all know that small groups require extreme clarity about core values, bedrock beliefs, overarching Biblical vision, and strategic mission. What is new is that embedding that DNA into the hearts of small group leaders has taken on whole new dimensions of "ruthlessness". The more diverse the mission field and the more diverse the tactics, the more "trust" is stretched to the limit. The leader of leaders must mercilessly hold feet to the fire and practice accountability for behavior, conviction, inspiration, and alignment among the small groups.

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