April 23, 2009

Group Multiplication Not Always Adding Up UPDATED

Posted in better disciples at 11:09 PM by alexlozada

My teammate Debbie Zink showed me a book excerpt from the Spring 2009 print version of Leadership(haven’t found it online yet) titled “Why Small Groups Boom then Bust.”  Larry Osborne writes in Sticky Church (available local bookstore),

For decades an unquestioned canon within the small group movement has been that healthy groups multiply by continually growing and splitting into new groups. . . . Yes dividing to multiply can (and often does) work in the short run. But it usually takes only a couples of cycles of join / make friends / split before the process loses steam, then stalls out. . . . I am convinced the boom-and-bust cycle of small groups could easily be stopped if those who lead small group ministries would simply remember why we started them in the first place and then ruthlessly stick to our original mission:  helping people develop authentic and transparent Christian relationships

On my office wall for the last few months, I’ve had a highlight from a brochure for the 2009 Saddleback Small Groups Conference.  It says,

Relational, Not Multiplying: Small groups need a simple mission. Too often small group ‘theory’ dictates that groups should be constantly multiplying. These strategies often place too much pressure on an average leader to be a ‘church strategist’ instead of deepening relationships with his or her neighbors.

I confess I’m a both sides of the coin type: I’m skeptical of schedule-based multiplication but I acknowledge that my first small group experiences (and in some ways the ones that still resonate the most in my life) at Cincinnati Bible College were college calendar driven.  Both Osborne and Saddleback-Serendipity come to the same conclusion: “relationships.” With a nod to Joe Myers, I’ll further confess – plenty of life change relationships bear fruit outside of small groups.

I found the link to an article Larry Osborne wrote last year that expands on the quote above.


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