Should We Structure for Rapid or Controlled Growth?

Should We Structure for Rapid or Controlled Growth?

Both models can bring incredible growth—if you choose the right one for your church.
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Is your heart rate elevated yet?

The problems with a rapid growth small group approach are almost too many to realistically anticipate, but they generally fall into one of these categories:

1. Leader Readiness Problems

Fewer controls result in group hosts or leaders who don’t really know what they’re doing. Only a few group leaders will have the skills or experience to teach the Bible in their groups. The rest will need plenty of help. Furthermore, you might wind up with people who really shouldn’t be leaders. With few or no controls in place, the potential is real.

2. In-Group Problems

Because the group hosts or leaders are not well trained, the potential for issues during group meetings goes up. Interpersonal conflict, derailed conversations, and doctrinal misunderstandings are some of these issues.

3. Leader Retention Problems

Untrained leaders get frustrated. Ongoing frustration results in discouragement. Ongoing discouragement results in dropping out. Very few leadership casualties ever come back around and choose to lead again.

4. Frustrated Senior Leadership Problems

When senior leaders start seeing the above mentioned problems, they often come down hard on group pastors insisting that these problems get fixed quickly. The real difficulty here is that senior leaders often try to force high control solutions which are kryptonite for rapid growth group ministries.

Controlled Growth Strategy Challenges

Now imagine yourself leading the small-group ministry in a church where the senior leadership wants as many parishioners as possible to learn the Bible so thoroughly that it’s almost like they all have an associate’s degree in theology. Yes, I realize virtually no senior leader would verbalize their desires in such a way, but I’m using this extreme example to make the challenges very obvious. Anyway, back to the mini-Bible-college-church. How would you go about building a small group discipleship strategy to fulfill such a vision?

You’d probably start by thoroughly training a core group of leaders who you’d like to have train the next generation of group leaders. You’d likely host training classes and require attendance. You’d cast a vision for people to gain an insatiable desire for God’s Word. You’d challenge group leaders to find apprentices in whom to invest.

After things get rolling your group ministry process might look like this: every small group coach has led a group for two years. Each group leader has been an apprentice for at least 6 months. Every apprentice is a church member and must attend 5 training classes. Every church member has completed a membership class that lifts high the vision of knowing God’s Word intimately. Do you notice how many “controls” are necessary for such a model to work?

Here are some of the challenging issues with this kind of small group approach:

1. Unconnected People Problems

If you started this kind of small-group ministry in your church today, how many group leaders could you realistically recruit right away? Not many, right? So immediately you’d have a connectivity problem. New people to the church who want to get connected won’t have very many group options.

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