I once heard Rick Warren say at a conference, “You can either structure for growth, or you can structure for control, but you can’t structure for both.” In my years as a small-group pastor, senior pastor, and small-group ministry consultant, I have learned that a more literal version of Rick’s sentiment is this: “You can structure for rapid growth, or you can structure for controlled growth, but you can’t structure for both.”
Think about it: When a church says they want to experience growth, they often hire staff members who are highly motivated to reach people fast. Those staff members start bringing in more people and the church feels excited—but then things get messy. The church needs to start more groups to accommodate the growth, so they recruit more leaders.
Some of those leaders may be pretty new to the church and perhaps aren’t as spiritually mature as leaders should be. The results aren’t good: In one group, there’s poor teaching that leads some group members to believe incorrect doctrine.
In another group, there are two singles who have started sleeping together. In yet another group, several group members have started fighting, and the group leader doesn’t know how to stop it. Suddenly the staff member in charge of groups is brought before the board and reprimanded for doing a poor job.
Nine times out of ten, the problem in this kind of scenario is not the staff person—it’s mindset. Church leaders want their churches to grow fast, but they don’t want things to feel messy and out of control. The reality is simply difficult to swallow: rapid growth and controlled growth are like oil and water; they don’t mix. Church leaders ...