Staying the Course Leads to a Church OF Groups

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“We over-estimate what we can do in one year and we under-estimate what we can do in 20 years.”  I remember hearing Rick Warren say this when Saddleback was about 10 years old and beginning to gather steam at their annual church growth seminar.  He said it to contradict one of the most deadly fantasies of church planting: “That it will happen overnight.”

When you’re talking about building a church of groups…it really is that.  It’s a building process.  It’s a building campaign.  It happens over the course of seasons and years.  It will happen in waves if you’re doing things right.  But it won’t happen in one fell swoop.  It just won’t.

When you talk to Bill Donahue or any of the team that began to drive the initiative at Willow Creek in the early 90s, you’ll hear that it really took 10 years to go from a church with groups to a church of groups.  10 years.  They’ll also tell you that it happened as a result of persistently staying the course.  It wasn’t 5 easy steps.  It was start here, build the foundation, build the infrastructure that would support the structure, try this, try that, reassess and evaluate, make adjustments to a less-than-effective strategy and try again.

As you know, I’m an advocate of the Saddleback style church-wide campaign as the best way to launch groups.  The Host Strategy and the Small Group Connection are the fastest ways to go from a standing start to momentum.  But it won’t happen in a season.  It happens over multiple seasons.  It happens over years.

Granted, there are some starting points that are more challenging.  Trying to build a church of groups in a church with a Sunday School culture is a tough nut to crack.  But it can happen.

The reason that this is one of the top 10 fantasies of churches with groups is that it’s so tempting to think that it can happen overnight.  It can’t.  It doesn’t.  It happens over seasons.  It happens over years.

The temptation, the fantasy, is that it will all come together flawlessly and there will be so much momentum immediately that 100% buy-in will happen right out of the gate.  It won’t.  It happens over multiple seasons.  It happens over years.  It’s worth it.  Staying the course.  Holding to your convictions that the optimum environment for  life-change is in a group and that the church ought to be a place where nobody stands alone…is worth it.

It’s hard…but it’s worth it.  It takes endurance and persistence…but it’s worth it.  It’s worth staying the course.

You can read about the other top fantasies of churches with small groups right here.

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  1. Kare Anderson on September 2, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I loved this post – wise coverage of a trend that any organization that wants to be resilient should emulate. Wrote about your post on my FB and Twitter. Congratulations Mark for such practical and life and community-affirming messages

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

    Thanks Kare! That is the case, isn’t it? Nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished in a day. Thanks for jumping in!