This past weekend we made a big push for Small Groups. The major win was the lessons I learned. With Small Groups, I now realize how important it is to give clear direction and vision for group leaders because without clear direction leaders will do things that can be harmful to their group. For example, as a Church we constantly talk about inviting more people into the Church and reaching out to lost people, which of course is the mission of the Church. Small Group leaders hear that and think that it is always good to invite people into their group, even especially needy people, but that doesn’t work for two reasons. One, groups need to be closed for a while to build up trust before they multiply influence. Being closed allows groups to develop trust and be authentic with one another. Second, Small Groups have more difficulty surviving an especially needy person. A needy person blends into a crowd and doesn’t necessarily drain from the environment, but they will always drain from a Small Group. It doesn’t mean a needy person can’t be in a group, but the timing is very important.
This leads to another lesson. We need to teach group leaders to be shepherds and defend their groups. As Andy Stanley says, “Do not be afraid to sacrifice the one for the many.” My sense is that some groups get hampered because there are one or two people in the group dragging them down and so as not to offend or hurt people, the whole group drags. Group leaders need to be encouraged and equipped to confront members of groups who are keeping the group back and even to ask them to take a break if necessary.
Last, I came to understand through this Starting Point endeavor that getting people into Small Groups is much more about individual sales. The groups that filled most quickly had leaders who recruited and encouraged people to join their group. Interestingly, when I asked one leader, Andrew Mercer, about this, he sheepishly said, “Yea, I recruited” as if that was a bad thing. No, it is just what works, he succeeded precisely because he had recruited. At this point at least (and maybe forever), people will not join a Small Group without the individual ask. Also like sales, people will not commit to joining a group if they don’t see a few names on the list, if the group doesn’t appear to be desirable to other people. I relate this to buying a house, you’re going to be suspicious of houses that had been on the market for a long time and even when I liked the house, I felt no urgency to put a bid on it. The next time we ask people to make a six week commitment to group life, we need to ask leaders to recruit at least a few people to their group and have them up on their cards so that people will want to join.