When I first became involved in small group ministry, there were two options for how small groups finish: multiply or die.
Years ago, we told groups they had to split or divide within a given time period, usually one or two years. Many of our groups resisted, and even revolted, so we got rid of the negative terms split and divide and began using more constructive terms like multiply or birth. Changing the words did not make much difference, however. Over the years, I have tried to give small groups numerous options for how they multiply, thinking that might help them to choose to reproduce. Still, groups balked at the notion of multiplication. (Am I alone in this?) I have done lots of vision casting, goal setting, and arm-twisting. I have prodded, rewarded, celebrated, shamed, urged, and manipulated, but none of these tactics have really worked.
I still believe in reproduction and multiplication. However, one thing I have learned and relearned many times over the years is one very simple principle:
Emphasize discipleship of individuals over multiplication of groups.
Here are a few sub-points:
- Build an atmosphere in your groups where people can and do grow in their relationship with Christ.
- Within that atmosphere, give them opportunities to serve together outside themselves.
- Give individuals increasing amounts of ownership of the group.
- Provide everyone with chances to serve one another inside the group using the spiritual gifts each one has.
- Share the leadership of the group generously and liberally.
The atmosphere you as a shepherd-leader build will determine your ability to multiply the group.
With this in mind, I have developed a process for our groups at Northeast Christian Church based on several small group life-cycle ...