You don’t belong here. That’s the feeling I got from the looks on the faces of the other pastors when I sat down in a circle of churches with over 100 small groups. They had never heard of my church. My church was the only one with under 1,000 people and over 100 small groups. Someone even asked, “Are you sure you’re in the right group?” I was.
My church at the time, New Life Christian Center, Turlock, CA, after being stuck with only 30 groups in a church of 800 adults, made a breakthrough. In just six months, we connected 1,000 people into 103 groups. What’s even better is that in 18 months, we went from having 30 percent of our adults in groups to having nearly 40 percent of our adults lead a group for at least one six-week series. When it all shook out, 13 percent of our adults led on-going groups for 125 percent of our congregation. This was small potatoes compared to what came next with the churches I coached.
Harvest Church (UMC), Byron, GA, started 500 groups in a church of 2,500. By giving permission and opportunity to their members, they had twice as many people in groups as attended the weekend service. New Life Church (AG), Renton, WA found similar results in their congregation of 2,500. When we started, they had 100 groups. In six months, they had 500 groups. But these weren’t the biggest numbers.
Kingdom Life Church, Baltimore, MD, created a series called Back to Church based on Pastor Michael Phillips’ teaching. This church with 600 adults on the weekend launched 167 groups. What would your church look like if one out of every three adults led a group?
The best part in all of these churches was they put an emphasis on discipleship over leadership. Think about it. Jesus did not call us to make leaders. Our mission from Jesus Himself is to “go and make disciples.” As one pastor in Connecticut put it, “We’re not recruiting elders here.” It takes a lot to develop a leader. But, to make disciples, you just need a disciple. After all, disciples make disciples. Now, to keep things headed in the right direction, the churches gave them the curriculum to study and a small group coach to guide them. While they opened up the opportunity, this wasn’t open season on whatever you wanted to do!
The great thing about this approach was that more people were connected into a disciple-making environments more quickly than ever. There were also many people in groups who had never darkened the doors of these churches. Evangelism was happening without calling it evangelism.
There is a bit of a misnomer that in order to have 100 groups, you need 1,000 people — 10 in each group, right? Wrong! To have 100 groups, you only need 100 people who are willing to invite and include others and do something intentional about their spiritual growth.
I want to challenge you to join the 100 Groups Challenge. I am looking for 100 churches who will commit to reaching 100 small groups in 2020. This isn’t renaming classes or teams as “groups.” This is increasing the total number of groups in your church until you reach 100 groups in 2020. If you already have 100 groups, then your challenge is to start 100 new groups in 2020.
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