Had an opportunity over the weekend to work my way through Rick Howerton’s newest book: A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small-Group Dynamic. With a central premise that “the world has changed; the way we do groups has not–but it must,” A Different Kind of Tribe is packed with thought-provoking ideas. You may not agree with everything here, but Howerton has done some very good essential thinking on a topic you’ll ignore only at the risk of irrelevance.
I found several sections particularly helpful. First, he carefully works through the idea that we’re living in a different time with many unfamiliar and often unaccounted for dynamics. While you may be familiar with some of the trends and sociological developments, this is the first time I’ve come across any serious treatment of the implications for small group ministry. What authors like David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons have pointed to in books like unChristian, You Lost Me and The Next Christians, is given a thoroughly group-centric examination here. If you’re paying attention, you’re going to come away with some understandings that will reshape your leader development and training, as well as the ways you cast vision for grouplife.
Second, Howerton lays out a very thorough, stone by stone foundation for Christian micro communities (his term for the kind of grouplife that will be effective in the new reality). This section is very extensive, embedded with concepts that will seem both fresh and faintly familiar (in a 1st century kind of way). It merits a careful reading and rewards attention with a new awareness that will help reframe your small group ministry.
Third, the chapter on the tribal Christian micro-community gathering will open your eyes to ten vital awarenesses and eight leader necessities. While some of these points may independently strike you as obvious, when digested as a unit they’ll serve to drive an even deeper appreciation for the potential power of a small group concept designed for the new realities of post-Christian America.
In A Different Kind of Tribe, Howerton throws a new log on the grouplife fire that’s been smoldering in many places. With a careful reading the ideas here will ignite some very important conversations. Comforting? Not for many. Affirming? Not for many. Necessary? Most definitely. This is a book you’re going to want to work your way through. In fact, it’s one you dare not miss. I found so much here to wrestle with and work through and I think you will too.