In his book, Sticky Church, Larry Osborne identified a predominant belief in the church that he labeled the Holy Man Myth. “[This] is the idea that pastors and clergy somehow have a more direct line to God. It cripples a church because it overburdens pastors and underutilizes the gifts and anointing of everyone else. It mistakenly equates leadership gifts with superior spirituality (Stick Church, 49).”
When the Holy Man Myth is embraced, church leaders believe the lie that the execution of ministry rests fully on their shoulders, while lay people believe the lie that they are consumers not contributors. This leads to leaders executing the ministry of the church from the platform to the parking lot; from the church to the home. Their job description reflects the mentality below:
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.
Two common ways to multiply a group are through launching and splitting. Launching is when you send out a leader and a core group, while splitting is when your group grows too large and you then split it into two medium-sized groups. Personally, I recommend launching a leader with a core group of four to six people.
Launching emphasizes the “sent people” value that we mentioned in an earlier post. As you pray and commission the leader and group, it feels similar to a church plant, while the split approach can often feel like divorce and leave people nervously picking a group. Additionally, the trigger for launching a new group is when you have a leader who is ready to lead, while splitting waits until a group is overpopulated. The former emphasizes leadership development and reinforces vision, where the latter often feels like a logistical remedy. Lastly, launching can be done well in a group of ten or a group of twenty-five.
One of the most common questions about multiplication is “At what number should our group multiply?” What I love about this question is the expectation that the group will grow and that when it does, the group will multiply. Nonetheless, this isn’t the right question. The question should be more qualitative than quantitative. Health, not logistics, should drive the multiplication process.
Group multiplication is the product of spiritual growth, not numerical growth. It is better for a healthy group of eight to multiply, than an unhealthy group of 25. Furthermore, to send out a leader who isn’t ready with a group that doesn’t embrace the vision is a recipe for failure. By focusing on the health, not the number of members, you assure that your multiplication process will promote member health, not neglect it.
If you visited ten churches, all of them would probably have some type of group/class environment, but each would have its own unique strategy. You would see stances along several different spectrums: on-site/off-site, class/groups, closed/open, evangelism/discipleship, gender-specific/co-ed.
Over the last few years, I have learned that the best strategy is the one you will use. Though some strategies are better than others, the most influential factor in a strategy’s effectiveness is you. There is no silver bullet that works for every church in every context. Though each local church shares the same mission, the forms it uses to accomplish its primary functions, will differ. What is important is that evangelism, biblical community, and discipleship are evident in the life of every believer and represented in every church’s strategy.
For our church, we have open groups that meet in neighborhoods for the purpose of providing a life-changing community for those inside and outside the church walls. One of the important parts of our strategy is group multiplication. This isn’t something that is mandated to the believer or the church. It is simply the strategy we chose that reflects our theology and ministry philosophy. Group multiplication isn’t how we determine if a group is successful, but it is a byproduct of a successful group. When we provide a place where people can experience the love of Christ through His Word and His people, we will need to create more space for more to join. This philosophy is built upon a biblical theme we see in society’s engagement with Avengers: Endgame and the Early Church’s emphasis on hospitality.
Five years ago, I made the switch. My devotional time went all digital. I put my weathered Bible on the shelf with all its pen marks and notes scribbled on the side. I replaced my whole library with one simple device that could fit in my pocket. It contained thousands of commentaries, dictionaries, all my notes from seminary and my favorite sermons. My note taking was more thorough and my ability to search for things was better than ever. For a season, my phone greatly increased my Quiet Times. But eventually, though my head was full with biblical truth, my heart was starving for divine connection.