G12: A Cautionary Tale?

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I’m asked about G12 a few times a year…not near as much as free market, semester based, or sermon based…but often enough to have had many conversations over the past few years.  Here’s what I know about the G12 small group philosophy:

First, at it’s essence G12 works like this: the key leader forms a group with 12 members.  The leader invests in the members, holds them accountable, encourages them, shepherds them, etc.  Each of these members is then expected to form their own group of 12 where they’ll serve as the leader…doing to their members what has been modeled to them.  And then, those members are expected to form their own group of 12.  Pretty simple concept.

Second, there are other key ingredients in the model.  Encounters, or weekend retreats, are used to help jump-start leader development.  Groups are almost always separated into men’s groups, women’s groups and children’s groups.  You can find other aspects in this article over on Wikipedia.

Third, unlike most of the other small group systems I’ve referred to, G12 is really more of a church growth concept.  Where most small group systems are strategies to help members grow in Christ and be encouraged through community, G12 is the engine that drives the churches who use it.

Two Cautionary Keys:

There are two keys for me as I have observed churches in the United States and Canada attempt to implement the G12 idea.  First, I’ve found that the pace of life in developed countries (I’m probably misusing the term, but you get my meaning) is too fast to actually pull off the idea that I’m in one group as a member and another as a leader…and they meet simultaneously.  Generally speaking, the majority of adults have too much going on to actually make that happen.  If anyone can really do that they are in the distinct minority.  Anytime you base a system on what a minority will do…it is not likely to succeed.

Second, when you google G12 you’ll notice that the first page or so are negative articles about the system.  Just to highlight one, Joel Comiskey’s Concerns About the G12 Movement is much more developed than what I’ve written here.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Use the comments to let me know what you’re thinking.

Looking for information about other small group systems?  You’ll find more right here.

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  1. Tan-Yeo Lay Suan on June 10, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    Thank you Mark. I live faraway from you in Singapore. But I find it helpful to read your posts and am encouraged by your passion for small groups.

  2. markchowell on June 10, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    Thank you! So glad to know what I write is helpful!