A Bias Toward What’s Next

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Think you’ve nailed the way small groups work?  Think your current strategy or system is working as well as it can?  Wait…before you answer, think about this:

Willow Creek

In the early 90s, Willow Creek switched from a thriving discipleship strategy (by many accounts) to a modified meta church model and over the next 10 years became the first mega church in America to have more adults in groups than they had at the weekend services.  Why’d they switch?  The original method was a slow-moving, small group system where they provided intensive and intentional discipleship input in closed groups over a 2 year commitment…and they realized that they were never going to catch the moving train.  How did they know the new strategy would work?  They didn’t.  They had a bias toward what’s next.


In the fall of 2002, Saddleback switched from a very effective small group connection model to an untested small group host strategy (combined with a church-wide campaign).  To fill in a blank, they had grown from about 70o people in groups to about 8000 in groups using the connection strategy over a 4 to 5 year period.  Who could have known that over the last 8 years they’d grow from 800 groups to over 4000 groups?  Who could have known that they’d grow from 8000 in groups to 28000?  No one.  Why’d they switch?  They had a bias toward what’s next.

Why Am I Telling You This?

Why am I telling you this?  Simple.  You must develop a bias toward what’s next.  There is a next thing.  If there weren’t, all of us would have over 100% of our weekend adult attendance in groups.  Saddleback would have already connected the rest of Southern California.  The biggest reason?  We’d have figured out how to connect the widening 60% of adults who are unreachable with the attractional model.

A bias toward what’s next develops an appreciation for careful observation, a curiosity that leads to innovation, and a willingness to experiment for the sake of connecting more people, developing more leaders, and producing more committed disciples.  A bias toward what’s next see the status quo as something to be broken.  A bias toward what’s next is looking for latest learnings.

What’s Your Latest Learning?

Over the next few weeks, I’ve asked a number of the best-known grouplife practitioners to share their latest learnings.  Watch for these posts.  Try some of the things they’re figuring out.  Argue if you want to.  Chime in with your own.  The key really is this.  Although Solomon said “there’s nothing new under the sun,” God, through the prophet Isaiah said,

“See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19

We are not living in the day when the status quo is a good thing.  At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century…it is clearly time to develop a bias toward what’s next.

What do you think?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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  1. Jonathan Holcomb on August 31, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Really good post.  Always have a bias towards action.

  2. Anonymous on August 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks Jonathan! Very important to stay focused and looking for opportunities that go beyond.