I think it is a fair statement to say that I am obsessed with the idea of doubling groups. I think about it all the time. It is 1:00 a.m. and I am writing because I can’t sleep due to some new insight about doubling groups has been rattling around in my brain for a few days and I can’t sleep till I get at least a little of it on “paper. ”
I think about it all the time. I thought of it numerous times today between celebrating a birthday
for a nephew and family barbeque and a few sets of tennis-my mind always drifts to this subject
of doubling groups. I feel I may have figured out the missing piece.
Not that this will be the last missing piece. I likely will keep thinking about this for the rest of my
life. It is my calling, my magnificent obsession. I have had dozens of days like today when I
could think of nothing but some new insight about doubling groups.
Before I get into today’s insight, let me review. Doubling groups is fascinating to me for four
- It is possible. Doubling a group every two years or less means 40% annual growth or an
average group going from ten to fourteen in a year. We can do this. God being our
helper, we can do this.
- It is amazing. A group of ten that doubles every eighteen months will reach a thousand
people in ten years.
- It is happening. I have a soon-to-be-released book called The Amazing Power of
Doubling Groups. It is one story after another about groups that are doubling. I am
convinced God is up to something, and I want to fan the flame of what God is doing.
- It is not happening everywhere. The compelling question for me is, “Why not?” Why isn’t
every group doubling? Why isn’t every pastor excited about equipping groups to double?
Why are so many churches struggling when it is so possible and so amazing to give ourselves to doubling groups.
Last year’s answer to this question went like this: we have not embraced the vision. In order to
double a group every two years or less we must personally, enthusiastically and
sincerely embrace the vision of groups growing and dividing, growing and dividing, growing
and dividing. Most have not. Most, in fact, are verbally, vocally enthusiastically opposed to
dividing their group. I can understand that on one level. Reproduction is painful on any level. But
reproduction is the hope of the next generation. We must embrace the vision. Most oppose it.
There is a very simple and easy-to-understand reason why this is not happening in many
places: we are against it.
But, here is what I have been thinking about recently: is embracing the vision enough? Is it
enough to say, as I ask people to say in my seminars, “I want my group to grow and divide,
grow and divide, grow and divide”? Lately, I am thinking it is not enough.
The race belongs to those who TRAIN
Here is the verse that is on my desktop these days:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in
such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict
training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will
last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man
beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to
others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Cor. 9:24-27 [NIV]
Here is what I see in this verse these days: the race belongs to those who TRAIN. It is not about
the will to win. It is about the will to TRAIN. It is not only about embracing the vision of doubling
groups. It is the willingness to be TRAINed to double groups.
Teaching is more TRAINing. TRAINing involves five steps. Teaching is only one of them:
Never stop learning and growing
Imagine I want to teach you to play tennis. Let’s start with the forehand. I show you how to
stand. I show you how to hold the racquet. I talk to you about where to make contact with the
ball. I explain to you how topspin helps the ball curve down and enables you to whack the dog
out of the ball and it still go in. I talk to you about all the basics of a forehand.
Can you hit a forehand? No. Why? You have been taught, but you have not been TRAINed.
TRAINing involves rehearsing. It means you practice. It means you hold a tennis racquet in
hand and try to hit a top spin.
Let’s say you do that. You grab a racquet and you try to hit the ball, just like I explained it to you.
Can you hit a forehand yet? No. You have been taught, and you rehearsed, but you have not
completed the TRAINing process. The next step is to assess. You can do self-assessment,
which has some value, or have a knowledgeable coach assess you, which is more valuable still.
Let’s say you do that. You try to hit the ball, and a knowledgeable coach evaluates you. He has
evaluation all written up.
Can you hit a forehand yet? No. You have not yet been TRAINed. You have been taught. You
rehearsed what you were taught. There was an assessment. But the assessment doesn’t do a
lot of good while it is on the clip board. You need individualized instruction based on the
assessment. You need the coach to go over what he observes in your stroke.
Now, if you do this a few dozen times-never stop learning and growing-you will be able to hit a
tennis ball. Anyone with a modicum of athletic skill can do it. You just have to be T.R.A.I.N.ed
Saturday morning TRAINing
I have been experimenting with a new approach to TRAINing that has served as a great
illustration of this. I have recently done a couple of Saturday morning TRAINing sessions with
some teachers from my home church. We have worked our way part-way through Rick
Warren’s excellent series on Preaching for Life Change. (We called it Teaching for Life
Change.) It is all about life change. It is all about teaching for application. It is all about teaching
people to be doers of the Word and not hearers only.
After the first session we had listened to Rick Warren pound away on the idea that we need to
teach for application, teach for application, teach for application. I wrapped up our first session
with this question: what are you teaching tomorrow? What is the text? What is big idea? What is
One gentleman volunteered. “My lesson is on Obadiah.” Now, there is a great text to get lost in
a lot of biblical history and lose sight of the application. It had been a little while since I read
Obadiah, so I asked for some help, “Refresh my memory. What is the big idea.” This gentleman
had clearly done his home work. “Obadiah was a prophet to Nineveh 150 years or so after
Jonah.” “O.K. that is the big idea. What is the application?” “We need to be careful and not be
anti-Semitic. The people of Nineveh hated the Jews and Obadiah warned against that and we
need to not be that way.” “Based on what you know of the people you will teach tomorrow, do
any of them struggle with an anti-Semitic tendency?” “No, not as far as I know.” “What are other
possible applications of the message of Obadiah?” The group chimed in, “God loves all people.
It is a great missions passage.”
A month went by we all rehearsed trying to teach for life change. We got back together last
Saturday. Rick Warren taught some more. We discussed some more. Toward the end I asked
everyone to open to a favorite passage. “How would you teach this passage for life change?”
When we got to the gentleman who had shared the last time, he beamed with enthusiasm, “I
think I get it! I think I get what Rick Warren has been talking about.” He was eager to share is
application with the group. TRAINing had taken place. There was teaching, but not just
teaching. I am convinced if we had just listened to Rick Warren, as good as the teaching is, not
near as much would have been accomplished. We needed to rehearse, assess, have
individualized instruction and keep it up. I plan to get together again with this group as soon as
my schedule allows.
I am planning a new series of TRAINing videos based on this model. I am calling them Saturday
Morning TRAINing. There will be about an hour of video content with discussion questions
interposed throughout the video. There will be a teacher assessment form for each teacher to fill
out prior to coming that evaluates some key indicators of the health of their class.
I have three sessions I am working on just now.
- The Amazing Power of Doubling Groups
- Developing a Heart Like God’s Heart
- Giving Friday Nights to Jesus
Planned sessions include:
- Doing evangelism as a team
- Good questions have groups talking
- Dividing made slightly less difficult
Each session is a stand alone piece and the sessions could be done in any order. Each DVD
sells for $29. There is also a reproducible edition with licenses the church to make as many
copies as they like for use within their church. This edition will sell for $69.
For more information, or to order Saturday Morning Training DVDs,
You can see a sample of session one at
If you would like our class-based, 10 week training piece, as
well as many other helpful resources, consider the Big Double
If you are interested in scheduling a training conference, see
I will want your assessment of this new plan. I want you to coach me, as I seek to serve you in
providing resources to TRAIN your teachers to double.
In order to double a class every two years or less, we must do two things:
- We must embrace the vision of growing and dividing, growing and dividing,
growing and dividing.
- We must embrace the TRAINing. The race goes to those who TRAIN.
The clock says 2:05 a.m. I have got to get some sleep.