group ministries live in constant tension between fellowship and
evangelism. We want small group members to develop deep relationships,
but we also need to integrate new people into groups. Many churches
handle integration of new people by asking existing groups to add new
members or to break up and multiply into two or more smaller groups so
they can add new members. All too often the result is that group members
resent the intrusion, and a frustrated small group point person has to
try continually to sell a concept to the small groups that they simply
do not buy. We have found that it is better for all concerned to start
new groups than for existing groups to multiply. So how do we integrate
new people? In short, through campaigns. We have grown to more than
3,500 adult small groups by using campaigns to launch new groups each
year. Since 2002, campaigns have increased small group participation at
our church from 30 percent to 120 percent—seriously! Since 2004 we have
had more people in small groups than attend our weekend services. Rather
than taking energy from our small groups by forced division, the
campaign approach focuses on relationships, not multiplication.
We also do not subscribe to the theory that a small group needs to be
kept at an optimum size. Some people are just natural gatherers. They
start out with a few people in their small group and then keep inviting
others until quite soon they have twenty or thirty people jammed into
their house every Tuesday night.
At Saddleback, we don’t penalize people who are able to gather others
around them. Instead, we encourage groups to become any size they want
and then equip them for health in spite of their size. We believe ratios
are more important than size, so through subgrouping we help maintain
ratios of attendees to leaders at optimum levels so that participation
and group health are not jeopardized. In other words, we tell our small
group leaders they can grow their group as big as they like and we’ll
show them how to foster an environment for life-changing, healthy
community (this is discussed in detail in chapter 8).
Gladen, Steve M. (2011). Small Groups with Purpose (Kindle Locations
460-475). Baker Books. Kindle Edition.