Many churches have small groups for Bible study or fellowship where little real life change takes place. Some groups enjoy being together but rarely get beyond superficial fellowship, while others focus on cognitive Bible study but seldom wrestle with how God wants to transform their lives.
Our church consulting team recognizes that some of these groups will never become disciple-making communities because that is not what the leaders or members want them to be. On the other hand, some groups and leaders are hungry for life-changing community—they just don't know how to get there.
For churches that want to move beyond just "having small groups" to making disciple-making community the very heart of their discipling strategy, we offer the following suggestions.
- First, we tell the church that to grow disciple-making communities effectively, a called and gifted staff member must invest 12 to 15 hours a week in growing cell groups, increasing that time commitment as groups multiply. We work with them to reconfigure staff to make this possible.
- Second, we tell the church that they must make a major investment in providing training to this staff member and to those small group leaders who will be at the core of their new paradigm groups. We then try to recommend a source of training that is compatible with the culture of the church.
- Third, we usually recommend that this staff member identify 8 to 12 leaders who are most passionate about growing groups that function as disciple-making communities and form a prototype group with these leaders, just as if the church were starting small groups from scratch.
- Fourth, we suggest that at first they leave those groups alone that are not interested in transitioning as long as they are not being divisive. They are probably better than nothing, and it will be a while before there will be enough apprenticed leaders to offer disciple-making community groups on a large scale.