If you offer an invitation for people to innovate, they'll present new and creative ideas for group life. If you keep them firmly within the boundaries of one group system, they'll take it or leave it. Sure you might have some odd ball ideas, but those are the exceptions, not the rule. And they might just meet the needs of some of the people still unconnected at your church.
5. How do you train and coach groups formed from multiple models?
When it comes down to it, all groups are expected to meet the same goals: provide connection and care, Bible study, and service. It's just how they go about it that will vary from group model to group model. You don't need separate systems to manage different groups. You will, however, need to coach these different leaders in unique ways as they face conflict and challenges. On the other hand, all leaders need training in many of the same topics. It's possible to bring group leaders together around common topics for training, yet coach them individually within their specialty.
In the last church I served in, I led a monthly meeting of volunteer leaders who oversaw our entire small-group ministry. Each person at the table was responsible for a different type of group: men, women, couples, singles, parents, and neighborhood. Each of them coached the leaders specific to the type of groups they oversaw. That way one person was overseeing all similar groups in the ministry, and when these six leaders came together, we had an accurate picture of what was happening across our entire small-group ministry.
There is beauty in the potential for diversity in group life, and that diversity doesn't need to cause a headache. As your small-group ministry grows, you'll have to rethink your leadership structure, but don't allow that work to hold you back from creating the kinds of groups your people need. As you diversify your groups and allow several models to exist, you'll have greater opportunities for connecting the unconnected in your church and for seeing amazing spiritual growth.
—Allen White is a pastor, teacher, writer, and speaker; copyright 2014 by Christianity Today.