Small Group Multiplication: Can Community and Mission Coexist?

Every time I tell our group that we are multiplying, someone says something like, “We love our group! If we have such a good thing going, why mess it up?” My quippy, short response usually is, “Aren’t you glad the disciples did?” or “Aren’t you glad someone made space for you in their group?” Though this is a fun “drop the mic” response, it isn’t always the most loving or helpful. This question is valid and one that should be asked. If there is not some sense of sadness around multiplication, then it probably isn’t a group that should multiply.

The truth is that group multiplication comes with multiple emotions. There is an initial sadness of not seeing some of your friends on a weekly basis, but also an excitement about the new relationships you will make and the life change that you will experience firsthand. These feelings highlight a tension that needs to be unpacked further. 

Community and Mission: Competing or Complimentary?

When small groups value both community and mission, it can seem to be competing values. We ask, “How can people go deep, when our group is trying to go wide?” or “How can I foster my current relationships when I am trying to form new ones?” Often, we don’t find a simple answer, so we assume that we must choose one or the other. 

If we look to the Early Church, it shows how these two can work together. Throughout the book of Acts (2:44-47, 6:7, 16:5, 9:31), Luke describes the state of the church in two aspects: The depth of the believers faith and fellowship and the breadth of the church’s influence. Luke describes the strength of the community and the advancement of the mission.  The question is how can the Early Church’s story be ours as well?

The Beauty Of The BOTH/AND

In Jim Collins book, Built To Last, he explains what separates great companies from good companies:

“They do not oppress themselves with what we call the “Tyranny of the OR’—the rational view that cannot easily accept paradox that cannot live with two seemingly contradictory forces or ideas at the same time. The “Tyranny of the OR’ pushes people to believe that things must be either A OR B, but not both. Instead of being oppressed by the “Tyranny of the OR,’ highly visionary companies liberate themselves with the “Genius of the AND’—the ability to embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time. Instead of choosing between A OR B, they figure out a way to have both A AND B.”

The difference between a good and great company is the ability to reject the perception of EITHER/OR and embrace a BOTH/AND mentality. Much like Collin’s advice and the Early Church’s example, we must fight the urge to choose either community or mission at the neglect of the other. Instead, we must see how these two can work together to create an unbelievable impact in our life and the lives of others. 

If you look at the image to the right, it identifies the potential shortcomings of a group when we choose EITHER/OR instead of BOTH/AND. The Holy Huddle group is one that, as my friend Gus Hernandez says, has let the comfort of their group become an obstacle for their mission. This group robs others of the same benefit that they are experiencing. The Boot Camp group is one who neglects their personal needs for the sake of the mission. This group is a burnout waiting to happen. And for groups that don’t value community or mission, whatever few members still exist ask the question, “Why Am I Here?”  But, when we find the balance between both community and mission, we begin to form a group whose impact is similar to the Early Church.

One of the best ways to understand how community and mission work together is to reflect back on a sports team you were involved in. Did you have relationships with those you played with? Most likely. Did you have a mission that you were trying to accomplish? Most definitely. Whether it was winning the game or winning a championship, your team had a goal that everyone was striving for together. That mission united the team together under a cause and in doing so forged friendships. Often, the greater the mission, the stronger the community. Thankfully, we have the greatest mission in the world.

3 Tips For Finding The BOTH/AND

  • Make your community missional: It is important to set clear expectations with the group from the first week you meet. Let them know that the group exists for both community and mission. Also, share that when the group does this well, multiplication is something that the group will celebrate. 
  • Make your mission communal: One of the best ways to do this is to focus on authentic relationships. By providing a place where individuals can develop real relationships with real people who struggle with real issues, believers will grow and new people will get connected. 
  • Multiply with community:Don’t launch out from a group alone. Set up a “Core Team” of 4-8 people who will start a new group. This allows for some of the closest relationships to stay intact as you multiply. 

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