Exponential growth comes in two different ways. The common view of exponential growth relates to a trajectory. Eight people in a group each launch their own groups after a season. Eight times eight is 64. This is the second generation. Then, when 64 people launch their group of eight, there are 512. The word “exponential” is generally applied when an organization reaches the third generation and beyond. I love this thinking, but there is a problem. Not every culture is amenable to regular group multiplication.
Small group pastors use terms like “multiply” or “birth,” but for many people it feels more like “splitting up” or “getting a divorce.” North America is a culture rife with divorce. Please don’t read this as an indictment against divorce. No person entered into marriage with the intent of divorce. Something went terribly wrong. This is not a judgment, but an observation.
For those who grew up being bounced between two parents or in a step family, the effects of divorce are very real. When they join a small group which in essence becomes their spiritual family, the last thing they want is for their family to break up.
Some intentional disciple-making groups succeed at multiplying groups to a point, but in North America this is rare to see across an entire congregation. Most people are simply not willing to give up their group in order to start another. So, if groups aren’t exponentially multiplying, where do you get more groups?
There is another way to view exponential. Groups become exponential when you add an exponent to your goal. If you set out to start 10 groups (or 100) in the coming year, the challenge is to multiply your goal by 10. Those reaching for 10 groups would strive for 100 groups instead. And, if you’re going for 100 groups, then stretch your goal to 1,000 groups.
Does this sound farfetched? Ask Troy Jones, pastor of New Life Center, Renton, Washington, who started 500 groups in a church of 2,500. Ask Jerry Branch, pastor of Dallas Baptist Church, Dallas, Pennsylvania, who connected 100 people into groups in a church of 50 people.
If you think it’s impossible, then it is impossible for you. No one has ever accomplished anything they perceived as impossible. But, what is possible? When our church, New Life Christian Center, Turlock, California went from having about 240 of our 800 people in groups to connecting over 1,000 people in groups, it seemed impossible to others. Truthfully, when only 30 percent of our adults were connected into groups, it seemed impossible to me too. We were stuck. How did we connect 125 percent of our average adult attendance into groups? It required a change in our thinking.
I used to think that in order to have 100 groups, I needed 1,000 people. After all, 100 groups multiplied by 10 people each is 1,000 people. But, I was looking at this the wrong way. In order to have 100 groups in a church, you only need 100 people to each start a group. If you have a leader, you have a group.
Kingdom Life Church, Baltimore, Maryland, launched a video-based series in their church, which had a weekend attendance of 600 adults. Before the series, they had seven groups. When the series started, they launched 167 groups. These weren’t ultra-small, small groups. Out of 600 regular church members, 167 stepped up to start a group. It’s not impossible. It’s exponential.
The alternative is to grow your groups incrementally. That’s easy. Well, I say that except there was a year I didn’t launch any groups in my church. And, I know that I’m not alone. For any church to start 5-10 new groups is pretty easy. But, what if you 10x that number? What if you embraced the possibility of starting 50-100 groups instead? Rather than just connecting your congregation, you could connect your community.
What’s your goal for this year? What would it look like if you 10x’d it?