Lowering the Leader Bar

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Great conversation continues to come out of the comments generated by my response to Randall Neighbor’s article over at SmallGroups.com.  If you missed out, be sure and read them to catch up.

Today I want to expand the discussion on a potential strategic difference that a crowd-to-core strategy brings…that is not present in the cell group strategy.  Here it is:

Who you encourage (or allow) to host a group absolutely determines the outreach potential.

Take a moment and let that statement sink in.

Now let me unpack the idea.  What I’m suggesting is that there is a strategic advantage in allowing those who are newer to the congregation (who might even still be part of the crowd) to host a group.  I am acknowledging that there will be problems, but I pick up a key strategic advantage by not insisting that group leaders come from the core.

What’s the advantage?  Newer participants still know more people outside the congregation.  The longer a person has been involved in the core (or part of a closed group) the more likely it is that their closest friends, their best connections are also members of the core.  Newer participants don’t have that issue.  Ask new participants who their 10 best friends are in the community they live in and they’ll almost always identify 8 to 10 people who have never even been to the church.  I wrote about this phenomenon right here.

That’s a big advantage from an outreach standpoint.  Huge even.  Do you run risks when you lower the bar of leader requirements?  Absolutely.  But those risks can be controlled (see yesterday’s article for more) and lowering the bar opens up exponential opportunities.

Contrast this with the more customary pattern within the cell group concept where next leaders develop as apprentices and then one day enable the group to birth.  One reason that Mario Vega writes about the need for personal evangelism within the cell strategy is that it must be intentionally promoted as priority for the cell idea to work.

What do you think?

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  1. Mike Mack on January 16, 2010 at 8:37 am


    Let me put a different spin on this, if I may. First, I think that some in the holistic small group world (BTW, many of them are not even using the term “cell” anymore) are at least rethinking the whole apprentice approach. Instead, as I lay out in my new book, The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership, which Randall asked me to write for Touch on this subject, groups are moving to a Core Team approach, a much more natural, organic process.

    The idea is to bring the new people on the fringe into a healthy, growing small group where they will be discipled, shepherded, cared for, etc., but where the whole healthy dynamic of the group moves them to send core team members along with others to form new groups naturally.

    In our church and in others I’m talking to who have adopted this approach, I’m finding that if the group is healthy, they do continue to reach out to these new people effectively, they grow, and then they naturally start new groups. That’s when these formerly fringe folks begin team-leading as a part of a core team. This can happen rather quickly in some cases. But alll along they have the opportunity to invite their frinds into the group.

    Wish I could share more about it here, but I will say that one huge part of the group being healthy and able to accomplish this is the sharing of ownership and leadership within the group.

    Would be glad to discuss this with anyone who wnats to know more.

  2. Mark Howell on January 16, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Thanks Mike! Love the interaction. It’s been my experience though that once an existing group has been together for longer than a few months it becomes increasingly more difficult and much more unlikely that “new people on the fringe” will join. Instead, it is almost always the case that the easiest way to connect new people is in a new group. This is one of the keys to Saddleback’s rapid small group growth.