Vertical Church is an over 30 year old church in West Haven, Connecticut. The worship attendance is 1,600 adults in a diverse congregation made up of 38 different nationalities. No one ethnicity is dominant. Prior to implementing the principles found in Exponential Groups, the church had 34 groups following the Free Market model of groups.[

“The verbiage in the Northeast is small groups don’t work here,” says Randal Alquist, Discipleship Pastor. “Nobody wants to open up their houses. You’re not going to get them to join. We’re not a front porch community. We’re a back deck community with fences. We’re going into our backyards and have our own little space.”

After digesting the content of Exponential Groups, the church was challenged to add a new approach. “My biggest revelation was this idea that people are already in groups,” Alquist said. “There are distinctives we want to accomplish within a group. We want people praying together, people gathering together for community and to draw closer to Jesus. We’re activating faith together in the group. If we know that’s happening, and they’re attending church regularly and serving once in a while, then we know they’re growing. This revolutionized my approach in how to talk about groups and promote them.”

Previously, the church sought out people with high qualifications to lead a group. The new leaders were given a 52-page manual they were expected to follow. Alquist says, “We started giving people permission to jump in. We’re asking for people who love people and love God. We’re not asking for elders here. We want people who are willing to facilitate a healthy environment where connections can happen.” The 52-page manual was replaced with a 10-page manual and a short briefing meeting at the church. Training videos were created to answers common questions from the small group leaders. Each new leader received a coach to help them.

In their most recent alignment series, Vertical Church had over 90 groups with 920 group members. Additionally, another 240 people are involved in eight short-term Growth Groups at the church. “This approach opened up a world to us,” Alquist enthused. “We knew community was happening on the periphery, but we’ve been able to look at all of these little communities in our church and identify some basic things for those leaders to start practicing and to make sure it’s happening. It’s been amazing.”


Allen White helps Take the Guesswork Out of Groups. We offer booksonline coursescoaching groups, consulting, and curriculum writing and production. [

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