Many groups are resistant to the idea of multiplication. It's difficult to break up an existing group for the sake of reaching out to new people. Having babies—creating new communities—is painful, but the trade-off is better than remaining evangelistically barren. How do you keep a group focused on the gospel's command to be outwardly focused? Here are a few principles for fostering an environment of multiplication.
- Develop apprentice leaders. Every group should have someone being trained by the existing leader to prepare for leading a new group. A leader without an apprentice is inhibiting growth. A simple way to identify apprentice leaders is to ask the existing leader to take a night off while the group still meets. In his absence, who would lead the group? The identified "pinch hitters" become viable candidates for future leadership. Holding the expectation that every leader needs to be preparing future leaders should be part of your total solution.
- Maintain an interdependent infrastructure of small and midsize groups. Every small group should have a larger mid-size group as its parent or sponsor. When a small group launches a new group, often the two small groups can form a mid-size group and still see each other at mid-size group events. If I know I'll continue to see my friends that are starting a new group, their leaving does not seem as severe. Every small group needs a mid-sized group to relate to and every mid-size group should be made up of launched small groups. This interdependent infrastructure helps lessen the pains of launching new groups.
- Meet together outside of small group meetings. We've found that groups who complain most about launching are groups who meet infrequently. If a group is only meeting 2 to 4 times a month, then it probably hasn't had enough exposure time to go as deep as it desires. Groups that are meeting formally 2-4 times a month and then also meeting for service, socializing, worship, study, breakfast and other meetings often don't feel threatened by a group launching from their formal home group time.