Multiplying Small Groups

Small_GroupsWe have a great problem with our small group ministry at Cornerstone: We have too many people interested in joining a group and no groups with space to let them join. It’s a wonderful problem to have, at one level. It means that our small group ministry is growing. It means that people are seeing the value of being engaged with other people at the life-to-life, heart-to-heart level. It also means, however, that in order to accommodate all the new interest we desperately need new groups. For our small group ministry to grow we need our current groups to multiply.

This year we made the full shift to a new philosophy and focus for our small group ministry. Cornerstone has four core values that we want to emphasize in our life and ministry: worship, instruction, fellowship, and evangelism. In our previous incarnation of small group ministry we were emphasizing the instruction component of our core values. That’s an important piece, but we found that it was already being emphasized so well in other areas of our corporate life together: preaching, ABFs, and Wednesday Electives. What was missing was a formal emphasis on fellowship, and so we made a shift in our small groups to focus on building discipling relationships. We want to be involved in one-another’s lives, engaged in fulfilling all the “one another” commands of Scripture. In order to do that well we have limited the groups to twelve people. The “small” in small groups is relative, but we have found that a maximum number of twelve is mot reasonable both for gathering in homes, and for getting to know one another. That brings us to the problem we have before us as leaders.

All of our present groups are either maxed-out. There are some groups that have room for one or two people, but most have no room for anyone, some are even over the maximum number. We also have a waiting list of people trying to get placed in a group. We want to place new people, but that means we desperately need new groups. My ideal solution to this wonderful problem involves using the current groups we have to start new groups. It means asking those of you involved to step up and demonstrate love for your fellow church members by launching a new group. An existing group of twelve could send six of their participants out to start a new group, designate a new small group leader, and open up six spots in two groups by making this one simple move. This allows for new placements, but also keeps some of the existing group members together. It’s always more inviting to new participants to step into a group where real connection and familiarity is already existing.

I know how hard it is to ask groups to multiply. When one of our key members decided to launch a group I was both thrilled and saddened. We loved Mike and Tracey and I selfishly didn’t want them to leave. But because they left and because we let them go a handful of new people were able to participate in small groups who previously hadn’t been able. It’s not easy to do this, I know that. But I am asking those of you who love your small group to think about the many members of our church who don’t have what you do. I am asking you to think about those who are missing out, those who want to get plugged in but have nowhere to go. I am asking you to do what Paul encourages the Philippians to do: consider the interests of others as more important than your own (Phil. 2:3). I am asking you to consider multiplying.

I love having this kind of problem, but I don’t want to have this problem forever. I want to see new groups pop up everywhere. I would love to see ten new groups launched by early next year. That can’t happen if our existing groups don’t help us. Please speak with your small group and encourage them to pray for new groups. Consider starting a new group. As small group ministry grows, we need multiplication to happen. It’s the best way to help our whole church enjoy the benefits of this wonderful ministry.

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