It has been proven that starting a new group is the key to growing a groups ministry, as well as growing a church. “New” is always more exciting and magnetic than “old.” People are drawn to anything new.
The most efficient way to start new groups that are effective is by starting groups that will, in time, start a new group. In group life we often call this “multiplication” or “birthing” a group. In most instances, a pre-existing group sends part of the group off with a trained apprentice to start a new group. And usually, getting a pre-existing group to do this is like trying to pull pre-existing teeth!
How does a groups pastor create an environment where starting a new group is viewed as heroic rather than sacrificial? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Make group multiplication part of the group covenant. By doing this you establish early on that this is a practice that is highly valued and expected.
2. Start each group with a group leader, as well as a group apprentice. The apprentice is a constant reminder that the group will someday multiply. Also, the apprentice, if used wisely, will become more of a second leader than simply a person in training, so when the group multiplies many group members will be honored to leave the group to be led by an effective and established leader.
3. When asking groups to multiply, choose terminology carefully. It would be wise to say that you’re “planting a new mission” rather than stating that you’re “starting a new group.” People understand the importance and adventure of being on mission together. Using this term will make multiplication much more palatable.
4. Establish from the outset that the group will multiply in 18 months. It has been proven that a group that doesn’t multiply in 24 months will most likely never do so.
5. Remind group leaders that great principles never trump the greatest principles. Most groups don’t want to multiply because they are experiencing authentic and intimate relationships with other believers, often for the very first time. This is a great principle. But the greatest principle is to expand the Kingdom of God. And each time a new group is started, more people have the opportunity to join a group, understand the gospel, and be transformed through the power of Christ.
Rick Howerton is the South Central Regional Consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought-after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual as well as A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. He is also the co-author of Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple Making and Countdown: Launching and Leading Transformational Groups. But Rick’s deepest passion and his goal in life is to see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.”