As I analyze any small group system or aspect of a strategy, I always add a few important understandings and questions. First, I am sure there are no problem-free solutions. Second, I’m quick to add the great Roger Martin question, “What would have to be true for that approach to work? Third, I asks the four questions that evaluate small group model effectiveness. Finally, I do everything I can to cultivate an openness to new ideas. See also, Supercharge Your Ministry with These 5 Questions and An Openness to New Ideas.
The result of most of my small group ministry analysis is the conclusion that lots of what is being touted as the best system, the most biblical strategy, the answer to all of our problems…is really good thinking mixed with neatly packaged sets of false dichotomies, overstatements, and sometimes includes a twist of smoke and mirrors.
Here are 5 of my honest conclusions right now:
- Pinning hopes of reaching unchurched people on the missional community strategy is very likely missing the point. Granted, the missional community strategy does have answers for some situations (particularly for churches where the core, committed and congregation segments are large and there are high concentrations of Christians who associate almost entirely with other Christians). Still, the strategy might actually be a counter-productive step in churches where the crowd segment is large (relative to the core and committed). See also, Do You Know This Game-Changing Connection Secret?
- Pitting the desire to belong and the upside of connecting (come and see) against real discipleship (come and die) is a false dichotomy. The assumption that a core-to-crowd approach was Jesus’ model or somehow more biblical simply doesn’t line up with the gospels. Instead, Jesus’ standard approach was crowd-to-core; making it easy to begin following and progressively more challenging to continue. See also, The 12 Were Not Chosen from the Core and Even a Lizard Can Respond to Come and See.
- Maintaining a high bar of leadership without acknowledging a low percentage of adults connected underestimates the jeopardy that unconnected adults face. It is often the case that small group ministries that maintain very high standards (advance training, prerequisite participation as an apprentice, etc.) associate an inadequate supply of leader candidates with inability to connect unconnected people to groups. Far better to acknowledge that ministry design determines results. See also, What Percentage of Your Adults are Actually Connected? and What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting People?
- Lowering the leadership bar without implementing a leader development process is an inadequate strategy. It is one thing to revel in the ability to identify an unlimited supply of leaders. It is equally important to recognize the connection between the spiritual growth of the leader with spiritual growth of the member. See also, Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway.
- The assertion that coaching doesn’t work almost always means, “We haven’t invested the time and energy needed to make it work.” It is true that building a coaching structure doesn’t work in the sense that a coaching structure bulging with high capacity personnel who are both fruitful and fulfilled will spontaneously generate. But it is absolutely possible to build an effective coaching structure. It just takes lots of work, patience, and a careful eye for the right people. See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
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Image by Laszlo Ilyes