Doubling a class every two years or less translates into 40% annual growth, or going from 10 to 14 in a year. Why isn't it happening already? Why doesn't it happen all the time?
Seven reasons come to mind. Address these and you might get your groups doubling every two years or less.
1. We have never been asked
Teachers have been asked to teach a class. We call them teachers. A teacher's job is to teach. That is what we asked them to do. And, in many cases, they do their job. What if we asked them to do a different job. What if we said to them, "I want to ask you to consider leading this class. If you take this job, your goal is to double the class in two years or less. That is, within two years, you want to reproduce this class. I am looking for people to reproduce classes, would you like to try to do that?"
If doubling is mentioned at all, it is mentioned kind of as an after-thought and it is in the "nice to do" not the "have to do" category. If we are going to double classes, it is going to have to move up--way up--in the priority structure.
This is exactly what they do in the fastest growing church in the world. In fact, they do more. They require that teachers double every year. If they don't double, they give the class to someone else who can try to double.
2. We didn't think it was all that significant
If we can perfect the simple skill of doubling a class every two years or less, you couldn't build buildings fast enough to contain the growth. You couldn't start new services fast enough. You couldn't launch new services fast enough. You couldn't start new churches fast enough to contain the growth.
Andy Stanley is fond of pointing out that if you had a group of 12 that doubled ever 18 months, you would reach 1000 people in 10 years. That is why he has said he sees more kingdom impact from the 12 people he meets with on Monday night that the thousands he preaches to on Sundays.
Where would you be in ten years if even half the classes in your church doubled every two years or less?
Going from 10 to 14 in a year doesn't look like much, but it would result in incredible growth.
3. We didn't have any good examples
Can I take off the gloves? A major reason many groups are not doubling is they are not given an example to follow. I am a big believer in leadership by example. People follow leaders who provide an example. The leader must embody the vision.
In many cases, this is not happening. In many cases, the Pastor, the Minister of Music, the Minister of Youth, sometimes the Minister of Education do not attend Sunday School or a small group of any kind. I have had Ministers of Music say to me, "I can't attend Sunday School, I have to rehearse the choir." I have heard their choirs. I agree. They need rehearsing! But, Sunday morning is not the only time to attend a group. If they can't attend on Sunday morning, attend during the week.
You can't have it both ways. You can't stand before your church and say, "Groups are wonderful. Groups are great. God's plan for advancing the kingdom is through groups that are doubling. I love being in a group." if the top tier or leadership--staff and lay leadership are not happily involved in doubling a group.
The good news is this, if the staff are happily involved in doubling groups, they alone will cause significant growth to the overall church.
If I were a pastor I would sit down with my staff and say these words. "One of your jobs is to be a part of a group and help it double. It can meet on Sunday morning, or during the week. Every three months, when we do our quarterly review, I will ask you, 'What two people have you thoroughly assimilated in the last three months?'"
If you say to me that you don't have time, I would respond this way. If the professional staff cannot find time to double a group, there is no way we will persuade the rest of the church that they can find time.
And it is not about duty and obligation. It is about joy. We want to persuade people that it is a wonderful thing to be a part of a group that is doubling every two years or less.
4. We didn't realize how difficult it would be
This is actually more difficult than it looks. It is about going from 10 to 14 in a year. That doesn't sound difficult. It is more difficult than it looks.
It is more difficult than it looks because some people will move away. You will have to reach a number of people just to stay even.
It is more difficult because some people will become inactive. We will try to work with them, but some will fall way. The Bible tells us it is so.
It is more difficult because we have a thousand things going on in our lives that keep us from this. More on that later.
5. We are too big already
Growth will kill a small group. That is, by definition, if the group grows, pretty soon it isn't small any more. I talk to teachers all the time who have huge groups. I talked to one last night that had 70 in his group. That is not a small group. It is a church! And, the bigger the group, the more difficult to sustain growth.
Now, the mid-sized group model offers an alternative to the small-group model. Some people like mid-sized groups. But, it is still vital that we hold up the value of doubling the group every two years or less. But, to be honest, going from 10 to 14 in a year is very do-able. Going from 70 to 100 in a year is way more difficult. The bigger the group, the more difficult it is to sustain growth.
It would be far easier to grow a group from half the size it is now, to the size it is now, than it is to grow a group from the size it is now to twice the size it is now.
6. We refuse to divide
Divide is an ugly word among educators. We like to talk about multiplying and reproducing and creating new units. The truth is, it comes down to dividing classes in order to multiply, reproduce and create new units.
This is where the rubber hits the road.
I have had more than one Minister of Education say to me, "These people in our church are great people. They love God, love the Bible, know how to minister, understand Sunday School, keep up with each other and do pretty good outreach. There is one thing they are not so good at. I wasn't here a month before one of them said to me, 'Sonny boy, don't you EVER think of dividing this group.'" Does it happen in your church?
You can take that attitude if you want to. But, you set the ceiling on how many people you can minister to. A group can only get so big. Mid-sized groups a little bigger. Still, every tree will stop growing eventually. If you want to produce a forest, you have to plant more trees. Every teacher needs to reproduce in the life of another, and another, and another. Through the power of multiplication, we can turn our world upside down.
Doubling a group is not about going from 10 to 20. It is about going from one group to two.
7. We never really thought about it
What keeps us from doubling a class every two years or less? One word. . .
Life keeps us from doubling. A thousand things. Kids. Soccer. Money. Church. Work. Classes. The yard. Bills. TV. Making the bed. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Our own ambition. The past. Past failure. Past success.
I have often ask teachers, "Do you think you could double your group if we offered you a million dollars to get it done?" The answer is obvious and immediate. It is a startling admission. We are admitting it is more important to us to have a million dollars than it is to get sinners our of hell and into heaven through the power of doubling groups.
I want to ask you to think deeply about what would happen if an army of teachers got serious about doubling their groups every two years or less. I want to be a part of that army. Would you join me in the cause of trying to double the Capital-C Church (universal, invisible Church) by helping micro-churches (Small groups and Sunday School classes) to double every two years or less? It must become for us a kind of magnificent obsession. Think about it. And let's not just think about it, let's do it!