Before getting started here, I would like to announce that The Naked Truth About Small-Group Ministry has won this year's award for most arresting cover art. (And no, that's not Randall on the cover.)
On a more serious note, this is an interesting book in part because of Randall Neighbour's dual identity in the world of small groups. On one hand, Randall is a small-groups insider. He is passionate about community and discipleship, and he has spent the better part of his life coaching pastors and church leaders toward successfully implementing holistic small groups as a base of ministry and mission—and in doing so, he has continued the vision of his father, Ralph Neighbour.
On the other hand, Randall is often viewed as a small-groups outsider. His vision for cell groups, or holistic small groups, regularly contrasts (and sometimes clashes) with what a large segment of the church would view as "traditional" small-groups ministry, as we'll see below.
With that in mind, let's take a look between the pages of The Naked Truth About Small-Group Ministry.
The book is divided into seven chapters, with each one offering "the naked truth" about a perceived fault in the American church as it relates to small groups. Each chapter is divided into two sections. The first outlines the problems and flaws inherent in a specific way of thinking about small groups, and the second (labeled "What to do about it") offers solutions to those problems.
Here's a quick look at each chapter:
1.The Naked Truth About the American Church: the heart of the house is dead. This chapter asserts that the program-drive culture of Western churches has produced Christians that are in reality spiritual zombies. And when churches try to corral those spiritual zombies into groups as a method of spiritual growth, it doesn't work.
2.The Naked Truth About Lead Pastors: attitudes and strategies that bastardize the nature of holistic small groups. This chapter criticizes lead pastors who structure their small-group ministry as a support to the larger ministry (funnel strategies), or who create a "cafeteria plan" where small groups are one program among many.
3.The Naked Truth About Implementation Strategies: common mistakes that promote lethargy and small group closure. Randall addresses two specific strategies that are common in churches today: 1) choosing a pre-existing model of ministry and then shoe-horning it into your church, and 2) using a campaign strategy to launch groups, train hosts, provide curriculum, and so on.
4.The Naked Truth About Relational Discipleship: the American church doesn't do it. American churches don't view discipleship as a relational process, which is why small groups and other areas of those churches don't produce real, growing disciples.
5.The Naked Truth About Small Group Leadership: it's time to break with tradition. Having a group leader take the majority of responsibility within a group leads to burnout and a lack of leaders. The solution is developing a team of "core leaders" that manage a group.
6.The Naked Truth About Intergenerational Small Groups: children are your most powerful small group members. Co-written with Daphne Kirk, this chapter implores churches and small groups to view children as the church of today, not the church of tomorrow.
7.The Naked Truth About Small Group-Driven Churches: guiding principles that produce healthy small groups. Pretty self-explanatory. This chapter serves as half review of the previous book, half collection of miscellaneous tips for producing healthy small groups.