Ward Church is a 63 year old Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Northville, Michigan, a Detroit suburb. Ward currently has a congregation of 1,800 adults and has a long history of small groups.
The church offers a wide variety of groups to their congregation and neighborhood – groups for men, women, couples, singles, and parents. They also have a number of support groups including GriefShare, Celebrate Recovery, and DivorceCare. Yet, even with all of these groups, Ward had not connected their entire congregation into groups. They chose to use an alignment series.
“People really enjoyed the series. An alignment series solves the question of what groups are going to study. It provided an opportunity to start new groups and get new people plugged into both our new and established groups,” reported Janet Branham, Director of Small Groups.
With a long history of groups, it took a little finesse to get established groups on-board with the alignment series. “We have lots of groups that want to do their own thing and follow their own schedule. Some complained that the material isn’t ‘deep’ enough. We added a digging deeper section to the curriculum to serve these groups and avoid this objection,” Branham shared. “We encouraged our existing groups to do the material and asked them if they had room for new people. If they chose to do the alignment study, then their groups were included in the church’s Small Group Fair. We also made an appeal for new leaders to launch groups at the Small Group Fair.”
By inviting rather than mandating, Ward Church was able to enlist many of their established groups. By honoring the established groups and even blessing those who chose not to do the study, Ward has been able to maintain a solid percentage of groups, both on-campus and off-campus for decades.
This case study is an excerpt from the Exponential Groups Workbook by Allen White. The workbook is filled with examples, templates, timelines, and samples to effectively recruit leaders and launch groups in your church.
By Allen White
Photo by Andor Bujdoso
One year ago after following a nudge from the Holy Spirit, which felt move like a shove, my wife and I formed our own coaching organization. It was a big step. After working for two churches and then two stints at Lifetogether Ministries with Brett Eastman, it was time to go out on our own. And, what a year it’s been!
Exponential Groups, my first book on small groups, will be released on February 1, 2017 from Hendrickson Publishers. Writing this book was something I just felt compelled to do, even if my mom is the only one who reads it. It’s the stories and best practices from the over 1,500 churches I’ve coached and the two churches I served on staff. Why Exponential Groups? When we recruit individual leaders, we grow by addition. When we train apprentices and “birth” new groups, we grow by multiplication. When we engage our entire congregation in the Great Commission, we grow exponentially. You can preorder Exponential Groups at Christianbook.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online outlets. Hint: The book is $5 cheaper at Christianbook.com (my publisher owns it). (Download the first chapter Here). But, this isn’t the best part.
I have the privilege of coaching some of the great churches across North American and helping them grow their groups exponentially. Here is a partial list of churches I’ve worked with in the last 12 months in various ways.
C4 Church, Ajax, Ontario
Christ Tabernacle, Queens, NY
Discovery Church, Orlando, FL
Eastlake Church, Chula Vista, CA
Manna Church (ARC), Fayetteville, NC
Next Level Church (ARC). Ft Myers, FL
Peninsula Covenant Church, Redwood City, CA
St. Johns Lutheran Church (LCMS), Orange, CA
The Branch Church (COC), Dallas, TX
Victory Worship Church (AG), Tuscon, AZ
Ward Church (EPC), Northville, MI
Bayside Community Church (ARC), Bradenton-Sarasota, FL
LifeBridge Christian Church (ICC), Longmont, CO
St. Matthew Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC
Allison Park Church (AG), Pittsburg, PA
Bethesda Pentecostal Church, St. Johns, Newfoundland
Mariners Church, Huntington Beach, CA
The Rooted Network, Mariners Church, Irvine, CA
Venture Church, Los Gatos, CA
Love of Christ Church (ARC), Bear, DE
Overlake Christian Church, Redmond, WA
Salem Lutheran Church (LCMS), Tomball, TX
The Life Church, San Angelo, TX
Thousand Hills Church (AG), Corinth, TX (Leader Retreat)
Georgia District Council (AG), Macon, GA (Pastors’ Conference)
Chip Ingram and Living on the Edge (multiple projects)
Doug Fields and Intentional Parenting (Discussion Guide)
Lutheran Church of the Atonement (ECLA), Barrington, IL
Kingdom Life Church, Baltimore, MD
Wow, when I stop and look at the list, I realize it truly has been an amazing first year. I also serve churches in some low cost ways:
My Blog: allenwhite.org
An Hour with Allen
We’ve had a great first year and have seen great progress in the churches we have served. My hope in the coming year is not only to help more churches grow their small groups, but also to help more churches grow their people. In the Great Commission, Jesus charges every believer with the responsibility to “Go and make disciples…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The word we are keying in on for 2017 is “obey.” Jesus didn’t tell his disciples (including us) to “teach them…everything.” He commanded us to “teach them to obey everything.” An obedient church is a growing churches. Priorities will change. Chains will fall off. Communities will be transformed. Believes will be empowered. New leaders will come out of the woodwork. Without building another building or hiring another staff member, we can change the world.
Thanks to all of you who’ve allowed me to play in your sandbox and have taken this work seriously. You and your church will never be the same.