Should We Structure for Rapid or Controlled Growth?

Should We Structure for Rapid or Controlled Growth?

Both models can bring incredible growth—if you choose the right one for your church.
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2. Realistic Numbers Problems

Your pastor’s desire may be to get everyone in the church to participate in this discipleship model. When have you ever led a group of people into something difficult where 100 percent of them bought in, though? There’s a reason few people become Navy Seals or members of Delta Force: not many have the drive to make it. The same can be said of high control group ministry. The more controls you have in your ministry, especially when it comes to who can lead, the less people you’ll have that qualify. The reality is that not everyone will make the cut, and that’s okay. Do Navy Seals and Delta Force members feel defeated when a recruit washes out? No. They know not everyone is right for the job. Listen, I’m all for setting the bar high. There is tremendous value in challenging people—they often rise to the challenge. But we must be realistic in our assessment of how many people will actually take part. Otherwise, we simply frustrate ourselves and set ourselves up for failure.

3. Comparison Problems

We live in a world where fast-growing ministries get all the attention. Many small-group conferences that I’ve been to have leaders of rapid-growth group models as the keynote speakers. It’s a whole lot more inspiring to hear a speaker say, “We now have more people attending groups than people who attend our weekend services” than it is to hear, “We have 23 percent of our weekend attendance in groups, but those 23 percent are really growing disciples.” This may sound a bit cynical, but in our action-packed, on-demand culture, quick solutions and big results sell conference tickets. It can be challenging for small-group pastors not to be enamored with the seeming flash and glamour of churches who are using rapid growth strategies. But if they Lord has led you down this path, don’t get distracted by what others are doing. The numbers will come in a controlled growth strategy, too, but only if you’re willing to stick with the plan for the long haul.

4. Frustrated Senior Leadership Problems

Just as in a rapid-growth model, senior leaders can also get frustrated with the problems in a controlled growth model. Picture this: your senior pastor’s neighbor comes to your church after being invited by your pastor many times over a couple of years. Your pastor is elated! But then the neighbor complains that there isn’t a small group that fits with his schedule. Because he didn’t feel connected, he stopped coming to church altogether. Immediately your pastor calls you asking why you haven’t started more groups so the ministry can accommodate a wider variety of schedules. The reality is that you want to launch new groups only when there’s a qualified and trained leader ready to start—and sometimes that means not being able to accommodate every person’s schedule.

Pick Your Problems

One of the best ways to choose which group approach is right for your church is to determine which problems you’re better equipped to handle. Ask yourself these question:

  • Would our church rather deal with unconnected people or unequipped leaders?
  • Would we rather clean up the messes in a rapid-growth approach or prevent messes using a controlled-growth approach?

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