Finding leaders is an ongoing bottleneck in the process of growing any church or ministry. Having too many leaders is rarely a problem. But that's exactly the situation that Overlake Church in Redmond, Washington, faced as they launched a small group movement.
"People in the Seattle area like to congregate around issues and ideas," says Dean Orrico, Senior Associate Pastor over Connect Ministries. For this reason, the leadership expected they would have no problems finding members for their small groups. Their concern was: Could they find enough leaders?
In an attempt to summon leaders, Senior Pastor Rick Kingham told church members that Overlake really needed "hosts"—people to make group members feel welcome and comfortable—more than leaders.
A huge percentage of the members responded to their pastor's call to host a group. Soon they realized they had so many hosts that they would only be able to fill each group with three members.
Instead of being greeted with a backlash of concern, hosts responded by going to their own neighborhoods and work places, families and friends to make their own groups. Because people didn't count on church members to fill the groups, Orrico explains, "It turned into a very evangelistic movement … more so than we'd even hoped."
Story after story confirms that every step along the way has had eternal value. One host invited a neighbor to attend his new group. This man, in his 80s, shared that he'd been in a small group many years before. However, it had been so long that the former members had all either moved, left the church or passed away, including his wife who had died four years prior.
There was no one left in his group. He had been coming to church alone for the last four years and sitting by himself. In tears, he told his new group, "It's so good to know that I don't have to be alone any more."
It's been amazing to see how God turned a "problem" of too many hosts into a life-changing experience for so many.