Branching over Birthing: The Alternative to Splitting Up a Good Thing

For group birthing to work, it needs to be natural instead of prescribed.

My optimism has been repeatedly challenged by group multiplication. I can, at least, give myself an 'A' for effort. It is not easy taking a tough position on this subject because the motivations and goals of encouraging the multiplication of small groups and small group leaders are all very good ones. I share the same heart, and I hope for the same outcome as group multiplication enthusiasts. However, I personally have been forced to find new how-tos. Maybe, as a fellow practitioner, you will benefit from some of my learning.

In my first small group ministry launch, I encouraged small group leaders to "birth" a new group out of their existing one within 12-18 months. I think one out of approximately seventy was successful in doing so at the time, but not long after, both 'halves' disbanded. The result was dozens of small group leaders who felt like they were failing because they had not reproduced a new group or a new leader!

This, of course, raised serious questions in our minds, since we were taught "group birthing" or "group multiplication" was a critical principle. We put a lot of emphasis on it, along with leadership development, through training and monthly "encouragement." In fact, group multiplication is a key principle in making various cell group systems (e.g. Neighbour to G-12) work well. If group birthing is not happening, the system stagnates, energy wanes, and the structure (along with everything else) slowly unravels as growth plateaus or even declines.

In 2000, I interviewed a long-standing division leader at a large, well-known, small-group-based church. She was a key staff person who had been there since the beginning and was, at the time, providing leadership for fifteen coaches. One of the subject matters ...

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