Running on Empty

Running on Empty

What to do when your group has hit a plateau
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Groups plateau when the vision for the group plateaus. If your vision is just to have a friendly group for fellowship—also called "us four and no more"—then naturally you are going to have trouble motivating your group members to move onward and upward for the Kingdom. But if you are praying for laborers to work in the harvest fields and you see (have a vision) that the fields are "white and ready to harvested," then you will be able to motivate others to join in that mission. We are not put on this earth to maintain the status quo; we are put on this earth to advance the cause of Christ and bring glory to God.

So, what is your vision for your group? Is it to reach new people in your community? Is it to develop new leaders to labor in the harvest? Is it to reproduce new groups and to increase your capacity to disciple an ever-increasing number of believers? If your to those questions is no, you need a fresh vision for the harvest fields (John 4:35). The world is growing at an exponential rate and only exponential strategies will keep up.

When a Ministry Plateaus

The next plateau is considerably more difficult to address because it does not deal with an individual. It does not even deal with a group. It deals with the entire church. To overcome the challenge of a church that has plateaued, you will need considerable skills and patience. The average church member or even group leader cannot address these issues, but you can be aware that sometimes the problems in group life and growth are not problems with the leader or even with the group. They are systemic problems that require systemic solutions.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in a church that has plateaued is the challenge of evangelism. The church is not reaching out with the gospel and new people are not being won to Christ. The baptism pools are not being stirred. The church that is not evangelizing is not growing. As a result, groups are often nothing more than holding cells for veteran believers. Talk about feeling "stuck."

But take courage: groups that are reaching out to their neighbors and serving their community can actually be an integral part of the overall evangelistic efforts of the church. The evangelistic philosophy of the group ministry should be similar to this: "We are in the community to win the community." Small groups can be team up in prayer for their friends and neighbors. Groups can be out in the community serving the people in need. They can be the hands and feet of Christ.

And small groups can do all of this even when they are part of an overall church that is stagnant. In fact, small groups that adopt this kind of attitude can often spark a renewal in those stagnant churches.

To accomplish this, however, you will need a fresh vision and a fresh commitment to obey the Great Commission. The Great Commission has one command, three participles, and one promise. The command is "to make disciples."

The participles are modal, meaning that they describe how we are to carry out the command. The first participle is "in your going." This suggests that to make disciples we must be going. I personally believe that you cannot be a disciple of Jesus without being committed to the mission of Christ. Groups that are on mission help to fully develop disciples. The second participle is that we should be "baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Let's intentionally help Christ followers to follow the Lord's example. The third participle from Jesus is that we would be "teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded." Groups are a great place to not only hear about Jesus, but also to obey the teachings of Jesus.

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