Note: This article has been excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training tool Grow the Number of Small Groups in Your Church.
For many small-group leaders and coaches, just the word multiplication can evoke tension. They remember battles fought with leaders or group members when they were responsible for motivating those down the flow chart from them to birth a new group.
Too often, churches launch a small-groups ministry without instilling the birthing of new groups into its DNA. Those leading and attending first generation groups experience community like they never have before, and they don't want to see that experience come to an end. The beauty of the experience is so fantastic that when you request that they birth another group, you have a mutiny on your hands. (You say birth a new group; they hear abort the group they are presently doing life with.)
Therefore, if you are going to successfully grow your small-groups ministry through multiplication, the most important thing you can do is stress the value of multiplication from the very beginning. Make it a core element of the overall ministry, and of each individual group.
Of course, there are many current small-group ministries that would like to shift to a multiplication model, but did not take that step when the ministry was started. If you're in that situation, there is hope. Below you will find an excess of principles and practical ideas to help infuse the value of multiplication into the very being of your coaches and small-group leaders.
A New Paradigm
The first thing you'll need to do is declare principles and values that will help your coaches and group leaders understand that the multiplication of groups is more important than the comfort of small-group members. You'll need to help your people see that the Kingdom is more significant than an individual group's holy huddle.
Remember this fact: In order to get people to change what they're doing, they must first hear, understand, and embrace new principles and values. In other words, a new paradigm must be realized. Once the new paradigm is part of the communal mindset, those at every level of leadership will be open to new actions.
To help with this paradigm shift, you'll need to identify some basic principles that can be voiced to redirect and instill the value of group multiplication. These are not slogans or catchphrases. These are an articulation of what you have chosen as core principles of your small-groups ministry. Here are some examples:
- For the Kingdom to grow, groups must multiply.
- Jesus longs for people to be in meaningful relationship with himself and with one another. When small groups multiply, there is a renewed commitment to both of these relationships.
- Any species that doesn't give birth to a new generation dies. This is true in the biological world as well as in the small-group world. Groups that don't multiply in 24 months die or become stagnant.
- When a group has multiplication as its goal, there is an energy in that group that cannot be achieved any other way.
- Multiplying new groups is the reason for apprentices. Future leaders may never achieve their full potential or find their role as shepherds if groups do not make multiplication an important responsibility.
- Multiplication is the most effective way to welcome more people into Christian community.
- Multiplication is the most satisfying accomplishment of small-group leadership.
- When group leaders birth a new group, the full potential of their leadership has been realized.
Spreading the Word
Once you've identified the new values that you want to communicate to your coaches and group leaders, the next step involves the actual communication of those values. When something is part of an organism's DNA, it is always there. We only recognize that something is part of us when we are reminded of it.
Try these ideas to continually remind your group coaches and leaders of the value of multiplication:
- When you recruit a new coach or small-group leader, make sure they know that multiplication is an expected responsibility.
- Model group multiplication as you lead your turbo groups or first-generation groups.
- Make it a requirement that every group start with an apprentice or have one in place no more than two months after the group's first meeting.
- Highlight the value of group multiplication during small-group leader and coach retreats, at monthly huddle meetings, and any other training events your ministry hosts.
- Add a section concerning multiplication to any weekly reports that are turned in by small-group leaders.
- When meeting with small-group leaders and coaches individually, discuss the birthing of new groups with them.
As you seek to communicate the value of multiplication, your coaches will be invaluable allies. Ask coaches to proactively discuss the birthing of new groups when meeting with their group leaders. Here are a few questions they can use that will effectively create a conversation about multiplication:
- How do you think your group will respond when it comes time to multiply?
- You know that we ask groups to multiply so that we can make small-group life possible for more people. When is it that your group is due to plant a new group?
- How can I aid in helping the people in your group understand the importance of planting a new group?
- When do you think your apprentice will be ready to lead a group of her/his own?
- When your group multiplies, how many people do you anticipate going with the new group?
Finally, the different parts of a church's ministry offer many ways to help shift your small-groups ministry to a multiplication mentality:
- During worship services. Ask the senior pastor to publicly affirm group leaders when they birth a new small group. This moment of affirmation could come as a sermon illustration, or at the beginning or end of a service. You can also have "Small-Group Sunday" and use part of the service to affirm the groups and group leaders that have birthed new groups that year.
- Prayer. When meeting with a small-group leader, pray specifically for the group's health when they enter the multiplication phase. Set aside time when meeting with coaches to pray for groups that are about to multiply. You can even ask the church to pray for small groups that are in the process of multiplying.
- Verbalize the vision. Statements that capture your vision for small-group multiplication will be helpful. Something like this will work: "Imagine a city that is experiencing not just revival, but reformation, because every one of our small groups invites unbelievers into group life and multiplies every 18 months."
- Create heroes. Identify those who are parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents of small groups and make them the champions of your ministry. That is, highlight the people who have birthed multiple generations of small groups.
- Electronic communication. Send out e-mail blasts celebrating a group that has just birthed. Or if you Twitter, send a tweet when you're on your way to celebrate with a small group who is planting a new small group through multiplication.
Rick Howerton is author of Destination: Community and a Q & A panelist for SmallGroups.com.
Copyright © 2009 by the author and Christianity Today Interantional.
- What is my first reaction to the term multiplication? Why?
- Is it time for our church to shift the focus of our group ministry toward multiplication? How do we decide?
- Which of the steps listed above will be most helpful for our particular church culture and ministry setting?