There's a great quote from the movie Tommy Boy that I always think of when I encounter the subject of ministry growth. Brian Dennehy's character, the owner of a small auto parts manufacturer, says: "In auto parts, you're either growin' or you're dyin'—there ain't no third direction."
I think the same is true of a small-groups ministry.
Unfortunately, achieving sustainable growth in any kind of church ministry has been a tough job in recent years. And things certainly don't look to be getting easier! So how can churches increase the number of small groups in their ministry—and by extension increase the number of people benefiting from those groups? Let's take a look at how this training resource can help.
As the title suggests, this training resource is designed to help churches increase the total number of small groups in their ministry. That being the case, the content is targeted toward the leaders of the ministry—pastors, directors, and coaches. This resource was not designed primarily to increase the number of members in a single small group, which means it may not be particularly useful to individual small-group leaders.
I should also mention that the content in this resources applies mainly to "traditional" small-groups ministries—those that have (or want to have) a ministry point-person and some kind of coaching infrastructure. Even so, the main ideas and principles can be successfully applies to house churches and other organic structures of small-group ministry.
To "Birth" or Not To Birth
The first question that your church's small-groups leadership team will have to address is whether or not you want your ministry to expand through "multiplication." This practice has many names—from "birthing" to "cell division" to "splitting." But the basic idea is that a functioning small group grows to a certain level, then reproduces itself by dividing into two functioning small groups.
There are many pros and cons to the idea of small-group multiplication, and your leadership team can get a good overview of the issues by reading "The New Math" from Dan Lentz (p. 4–5) and "Why I Like 'Branching" Over Birthing" from Reid Smith (p. 6–7). In addition to these articles, you and your team will want to do a little research on the culture of your current small-groups ministry to see if the idea of multiplying groups would be received positively or negatively.
Building a Plan for Growth
If you leadership team decides to use group multiplication and birthing, the articles in the "Practical Ideas for Birthing Groups" section provide a rough plan for getting started. Rick Howerton provides some great suggestions for communicating the plan to the rest of the church (p. 8–9), and Bill Tenny-Brittian's article can help you with some troubleshooting (p. 14–15).
"How to Prepare for a Smooth Delivery" (p. 10–11) and "Cutting the Cord" (p. 12–13) are designed to help individual coaches and group leaders navigate the birthing process. It would be great to have your small-group leaders read this material, but even better to have them read and discuss with their coach, then set up a "birthing plan" that is specific to their individual groups.
If your church decides that multiplication is not the best way to go, then your task is a little more difficult moving forward. The articles in the section called "Other Ideas for Adding New Groups" will give you some practical principles and tips for small-group "addition"—that is, launching new small groups instead of dividing existing ones. For example, "Growing New Leaders as Apprentices" (p. 18–19) details a great way to raise up a new wave of group leaders that are fully trained.