The Meta Church Small Group Model

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FutureYou’ve probably heard of the meta church small group model.  It’s long held a kind of buzz word status in small group land.  The truth is there’s a good chance that you’re already using elements of it without even knowing it.  In fact, when you pick up a book like Creating Community or Building a Church of Small Groups it’s easy to recognize traces of concepts introduced by Paul Yongi Cho’s Successful Home Cell Groups and Prepare Your Church for the Future by Carl George.

So what are some of the distinctives of the meta church model?  You can see some of the key assumptions right here.  Instead, I’d like to focus on the advantages and disadvantages of the model.  As we’ve said before, there is no problem-free solution or model.  Instead of searching for problem-free, we need to learn to choose the set of problems we’d rather have.

Advantages of the Meta Church Model:

  • Span of care, the idea that everyone needs to be cared for by someone but no one ought to be caring for more than 10, helps give structure and builds a realistic framework.
  • The notion that every leader should be developing an apprentice sets in motion a potential leadership development pipeline.
  • An emphasis on leader encouragement and development through a regular program of centralized meetings.
  • Groups that begin their life by birthing from a mother group begin with the multiplication gene in their DNA.
  • An emphasis on discipleship can produce genuine growth and spiritual maturity.


  • Although the idea of apprenticing is appealing, it rarely leads to the kind of multiplication expected as many apprentices never really leave a group, serving instead as a kind of pinch hitter that fills in when the leader is sick or out of town.
  • North American culture rarely remains committed to the practice of a regular centralized meeting.  Pace of life and the prioritization of outside interests make it difficult to build momentum.
  • High expectations of the leader make it challenging to identify, recruit and develop the number of leaders necessary to care for the number of unconnected people in the average congregation producing a constant shortage of leaders.
  • Toe-in-the-water opportunities to test drive a group are impractical.

Much like the G 12 movement, there are elements of the meta church model that are at the core of what small group practitioners dream of.  There is no question that certain of the principles can be found in many different systems.  It is also clear that while it fits authoritarian Asian cultures and many in Latin America, there is something about the pace of life and values in American culture that makes full implementation difficult to sustain.

For a comparison of other strategies, see my article on the Free Market System and Sermon-Based Small Groups.

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