I will never forget the day I first met Chris Imbach. I was in Florida conducting a Double Your Class Conference sponsored by the Florida State Convention. The Convention had recruited a number of small group leaders to lead discussion groups around the idea of Double Your Class. I was to present the plenary sessions, but most of the time was spent in the small groups. Chris was one of those small group leaders.
We were all staying the the same hotel, and Chris and I ran into each other on the elevator. He introduced himself and flashed that infectious smile, extending his hand to shake mine. Thus began our friendship. As it turns out, Chris has done a number of conferences on how to double your class. More importantly, Chris has done it. I have kept up with Chris from time to time over the years. We talked again last week. He told me he now has great-great grand daughter classes. They have gone from one groups to eight in four years. I thought, “This story is worth telling.”
When Chris trains Sunday School teachers, he begins by asking a few questions:
Do you have a purpose statement in writing?
Have you set some goals in writing for next year?
Are you purposely teaching for life-change?
Can you point to specific people in your group whose lives have been changed?
Are you getting together regularly with people in your group?
Are you getting together with people outside your group?
Are you developing leaders?
Has your group grown in the last year?
Has your group reproduced a new group in the last year?
Are you consistently evaluating your group?
Those questions may sound like a lot of high-sounding rhetoric, but I knew Chris. He could answer all of them in the affirmative.
Chris teaches a six-step strategy for healthy, purpose-driven group life:
Step #1: Define your purpose
Why does your church exist? Your purpose must be balanced, addressing all five purposes of the church. Groups are not just about teaching. They are also about outreach, worship, fellowship and ministry. Develop a purpose statement that envelops all five purposes of the church. Chris’s groups purpose statement is:
Building a loving community of young adults who minister to and pray for other young adults and who, through life-changing Bible study, become fully devoted followers of Christ.
Your group must know why they are there.
Step #2: Do some dreaming
This is the fun part. Have a barbeque in your back yard with some of the members of your class and dream about what your group could do on mission with God. Put down on paper 7 – 10 goals to accomplish over the next twelve months. Everything starts with a dream. Everything starts with goal-setting. Nothing happens until someone dreams. Get ownership of the dreams by having the group brainstorm together. This is not a top-down approach where you hand some goals to the group from on high. Rather, these goals need to percolate up from the group itself.
The goals must relate back to the purpose, must be measurable, and must be in writing.
Chris is one to practice what he preaches. Here are some of his goals for the next twelve months:
Have 12 fun-filled parties where we invite every member and every prospect
Reach 10 young adults
Enrolling 4 young adults
Having 3 growing life-teams (Chris employs the mid-sized group/ Master-teacher model where they have groups within the group. They call these groups life-teams)
Having all small group members discovering their “S.H.A.P.E.” — Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experiences. These are the basis of each person discovering their place in ministry.
Step #3: Develop a strategy
A purpose statement leads to specific, measurable and written down goals developed by the group. The goals must lead to a strategy. These are the road map, the plan for how to accomplish your goals.
Chris is a member of Chet’s Creek church (Southern Baptist) in Jacksonville Florida. Their strategy is summarized in the acrostic C.H.E.T.S.
Creatively Communicate God’s word for life change
Have a party every month. Invite every member and every prospect.
Engage people in ministry.
Train up leaders
Send teams on mission. (This is Chris-speak for “create new groups”)
Step #4: Communicate
Communicate your purpose, your goals and your plan
Step #5: Implement your plan
All good ideas degenerate into work. All the purpose-writing, and goal-setting and planning must lead to execution or it is all wasted.
Put your goals on a big poster board and keep them before your group.
Step #6: Evaluate
Here are some questions to help you:
Are you making progress toward your goals?
Is your purpose statement clear?
Are your goals realistic and measurable?
Is your plan sound?
Did you effectively communicate with your group?
This evaluation will reveal one of two things:
We executed the plan, but it didn’t produce the results we wanted. In this case, we re-tool the plan
We didn’t execute the plan. In this case, we try to discern where the breakdown was and make adjustments as necessary.
What they don’t do is to keep doing the same things expecting different results. That is the definition of insanity.
The bottom line
Teachers often tell me, “I don’t think we want to divide our class. We are happy as we are.” I know they are sincere. I know they think they are happy. But, what they don’t realize is there is a higher level. Teachers like Chris are some of the happiest people on the planet. Living in the stream of groups growing and dividing, growing and dividing, growing and dividing is one of the happiest ways to live. I’d invite you to embrace the vision of groups growing and dividing, growing and dividing, growing and dividing.
If you would like to contact Chris about speaking at your church, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or someone you know has had similar success in doubling groups, I’d love to hear your/their story. email me at email@example.com