What prevents many churches from realizing their desire to become churches OF small groups*? Most of the time their desire is unable to overcome the fantasyland in which they live. For example, they may really, really want groups to be important, even to be essential, but they simply cannot bear the thought of disappointing the guardians of the status quo whose legacy ministries will be affected.
For those churches, arriving at the preferred future of a church where everyone was truly in a circle is pure fantasy.
Most of the time churches are stopped in their tracks by one or more of these fantasies:
- Fantasy #1: We can keep the peace by making small group participation one of several menu items that are promoted equally as "the way we help people grow in Christ." (See my prescription: A Plated Meal Leads to a Church Of Groups)
- Fantasy #2: It is enough to promote small groups once a year, annually every fall, along with everything else that's starting up with the new ministry season (See my prescription: Narrowing the Focus Leads to a Church of Groups)
- Fantasy #3: An announcement at the end of the service is all our people need. Anything more is overkill.
- Fantasy #4: We can make this happen without the senior pastor's vocal and continual support.
- Fantasy #5: We can go from a church "with" groups to a church "of" groups in one ministry season. (See my prescription: The Last 10% Leads to a Church of Groups)
- Fantasy #6: We don't need our senior pastor to be the small group champion. What are we paying the small group pastor (or director) for if we can't delegate the champion role to them? (See my prescription: Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church of Groups)
- Fantasy #7: We don't need to start new groups until we fill up the groups we already have! (See my prescription, New Groups Lead to a Church OF Groups)
- Fantasy #8: All of our groups use the same curriculum. It provides everything that every group needs. (See my prescription, All Kinds of Groups Leads to a Church OF Groups)
- Fantasy #9: We don't need to provide next steps for our newest groups. They're all adults. They can figure out what to do.
- Fantasy #10: We don't really need to change our approach. Trying harder or tweaking what we're doing will fix it next fall. (See my prescription, Different Leads to a Church OF Groups)
By the way, even healthy churches on the way to becoming a church "of" groups often have a fantasy (or two). At the same time, when fantasies go unchallenged they will prevent or delay the decisions that lead to "of", where nobody stands alone.
* It may need no explanation, but a distinction was made at Willow Creek between churches "of" groups and churches "with" groups. To be a church with groups means that you do have small groups...but it's not the expectation that everyone be part of a group. To be a church of groups means that everything happens in groups and everyone is expected to be part of a group, where life-change happens.