Giving birth to a baby sounds so romantic …so sweet! Anyone who has given birth to a baby will tell you there are times when it is those things, but it is also not without a certain amount of pain. Birthing a group sounds so lofty …so spiritual. Anyone who has birthed a group will tell you it takes a lot of work and is hardly ever without pain. Just as a couple takes steps to prepare for the birth of their baby; there are a few steps to successfully give birth to a small group.
When you begin a new group, be sure to talk about birthing from the very start.
In conducting premarital counseling, one of the questions I will ask an engaged couple is how many children they plan to have and when. This way there are no surprises for either partner with such an important decision. If your group begins with the expectation that they will birth another group, they will have a much easier time mentally and emotionally anticipating the birth itself. And, if they have a good birthing experience, the more they will look forward to growing their next group and its birth. I inherited a small group ministry whose primary purpose at the time was for shepherding. I chose to bring our groups more in line with our churchâ€™s mission and began to foster the idea of reproducing themselves in others. Initially our leaders â€“ even those in my own group â€“ gristled at the idea. I can recall a lady in our group making the comment saying, "No one is going to leave our group!" One year later, she was one of the first ones to say, "When are we ever going to birth, itâ€™s time!" Patience with those in the group and my own timetable for birthing were vital in making the birth successful. When a group is pregnant with too many members you will find those in the group are actually uncomfortable in their present state and ready to birth rather than staying together.
Talk up front about the birthing model you plan to use.
With the birth of our children, we had to choose the model of delivery that would provide the greatest chances of a successful birth for my wife and children. One was born cesarean and the other was a natural deliver, and both were born in a hospital rather than at home with a midwife. The model you choose will probably be determined by your group size and the make up of your group. If your group is small â€“ 8 or less â€“ you can birth by sending out a leader and possibly an apprentice to start a new group. If your group has more than that, sending out a leader and an apprentice isnâ€™t going to help much with the group size. Youâ€™ll still have a large group. With a "large" small group you would be wise to try to encourage half to go with one leader and the other half to go with another leader.
Share the leadership responsibility from the very beginning.
To increase the odds of a healthy birth of a baby, a couple will enlist the help of others to take on specific leadership responsibilities. The doctor is in charge of monitoring the health of the baby and the mom-to-be. Also, there is the Lamaze trainer who will coach the couple for the time of delivery. All too often in group life leaders feel like they have to do everything and do it all the time. This happens when group leaders simply think a little too highly of themselves. In group life you can start with sharing major responsibilities or with minor, but continue to give more and more responsibilities including leading the study to coordinating refreshments for the group meetings. In one of my group births I choose to keep control of the lesson, of shepherding, and of projects. I wasnâ€™t willing to share the leading responsibilities. This put the leaders of the new group at a great disadvantage. If I had released some of my control I would have helped develop leadership qualities and build loyalty and confidence from others in the new leaders.
Set a goal of when you want to birth.
Donâ€™t leave the birth date indefinite unless your group is obviously not ready. Just like during the time a couple is expecting a child, the happy couple is always told of the expected due date. How would a couple feel if they were expecting a baby and the doctor said, "Yes, your expecting, but I canâ€™t tell you when you give birth. It may be a month, it may be a year or two." Talk about leaving something up in the air. Setting a goal for the birth of a group allows the group to not only prepare mentally, but also gives them something to look forward to. Plus, if you donâ€™t set a goal of when you will birth your group, you probably will never birth the group.
Plan a birthday party!
We celebrate the birth of a new child by visiting the couple, bringing flowers or a gift. Birthing a new group should be just as joyous. Allow yourself to have fun. You have achieved something special. Because it is a special time, plan more than just a party; plan a time of closure as well. If closure is done over several weeks or just in one meeting, plan time for the group to share what each otherâ€™s relationship has meant and to give a blessing to new leaders.