Free Market

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FutureThe Free Market small group model, popularized by New Life Church and based on Dog Training, Fly Fishing, and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century by Ted Haggard, is a term used to describe a system of groups that are based on common interests.  In fact, the subtitle of Haggard’s book is, “Empowering Your Church to Build Community Through Shared Interests.”

While there are often additional elements, Free Market is essentially a three step process:

  1. Leaders start groups based on interests (dog training, fly fishing, quilting, stock trading, etc.).
  2. The church publishes a list of interest-based groups (or holds a fair where open groups are advertised).
  3. Members select a group based on common interests.

Sounds good?  It has some distinct advantages.  Like every model it also has its own set of problems.  Since there is no problem-free model, wise leaders choose a system based on the set of problems they’d rather have.  Here are the problems I’ve identified with the Free Market model.  You may discover others.

  • Not everyone can easily identify an interest or passion that can form the basis of a group
  • Hard to develop a broad enough list of interests to engage everyone
  • If the goal is discipleship, leaders will need training in how to disciple without curriculum
  • Difficult to find enough interest-based leaders to assimilate the number of unconnected people in most churches

Understand, Free Market does have advantages.  A group of adults with strong common interests ought to be able to form good connections.  A well promoted fair or sign-up opportunity ought to make it easy for many to find a group that fits well.  You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to lead a dog training group.  The key is to be prefer this set of problems to those of every other system.

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