“Messy” Comes with the Territory

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“We’re stuck at 14 groups.  We’d like to have more…but we can’t get any of our existing groups to birth.”

“We’ve recruited hosts to launch new groups and asked the hosts to invite their friends and neighbors…but most of them said they don’t have any friends to invite who aren’t already in a group.”

“We can’t find enough qualified leader candidates.  In order to be a small group leader at our church…you have to be a member.”

Like me, you’ve heard every one of these lines.  You might have said them yourself.

What’s the Problem?

Much of the time churches get stuck when they can’t find a mess-free way to grow.  They’ve figured out that many of their existing groups have several high potential leader candidates in them, but haven’t come across an easy way to ask them to birth.

They like the idea of recruiting host homes and training the hosts to invite and fill their own group with friends and neighbors, but very few of the host volunteers actually know their neighbors.

They love the idea of finding new leader candidates, but they’ve always required their leaders to be church members.

What’s the Solution?

It’s time to connect the dots.  It’s time to smell the coffee.  It’s time to start acknowledging that the design of your ministry is often the issue.

It’s also time to recognize that many issues that seem too challenging to solve are actually pretty simple.  They’re not problem-free.  And the solutions are  almost always messy.  But “messy” comes with the territory.

If you want to connect people you’re not currently connecting, you’re going to have to do things you’re not currently doing (to borrow a line from Craig Groeschel).  And “messy” comes with the territory.

In an effort to launch new groups faster than leaders could be identified, recruiting and trained…Saddleback innovated and developed the Small Group Connection strategy.  Does the connection strategy work every time?  No.  Does it sometimes produce an awkward result?  Absolutely.  But…despite the mess, it is a great way to identify potential leaders.

When the connection strategy reached its limits in launching new groups fast enough to keep up with the growth in unconnected people, Saddleback developed the HOST Strategy.  Does it work every time?  No.  Are there times when someone volunteers to host and it turns out they’re really not at a place in their life when they can be representatives of the church?  Definitely.  But…despite the mess and despite the potential clean-up…nothing comes close to its potential to connect friends and family, neighbors and co-workers.

“Messy” comes with the territory.  If you want to connect beyond the usual suspects, you’ll need to do different things.  You might want to start with my list of 5 questions every small group pastor should be asking.

If you want to connect people at crowd’s edge, you’ll need a bias toward new groups.  You’ll need to become preoccupied with the needs and interests of the right people.  You’ll need an openness to new ideas.  And you’ll need to acknowledge that “messy” comes with the territory.

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

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  1. Anonymous on April 21, 2011 at 11:01 am

    In your face! Just the way I like it Mark. Sending this to our small Groups guy. Thanks. By the way, I like Messy!

  2. Anonymous on April 21, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Messy is better! Thanks for jumping in here Artie!