50,000 in doubling groups in one church

One of the most common questions I am asked is this:

I know the idea of doubling will work. I just  can't get my people to catch the vision? How do I get them to get  it? How do I get the vision to stick?

If you can relate to this question, I have some good news for  you. Andy Stanley has just released a new book called  Making the Vision Stick. It is great. The good news/  bad news about this book is you can read it in an hour. If anyone  knows Andy, tell him: we want more! We want more!

More good news: Andy's vision is about doubling groups. Here is  the long version of Northpoint's Vision: "We envision fifty thousand  people participating in weekly small groups that are committed to  multiplying." They go on to say they want to get this done by 2010.  (Page 23; Making the Vision Stick)

By the way, here is one for the  on-campus groups vs. home groups debate: when home group churches  speak of numbers, they are nearly always talking about what we call  in the Sunday School world, enrollment. They are usually not talking  about noses that were actually counted in a given room on a given  day.

I'd like to summarize Andy's brief book for you, but before I do,  let me make two observations about vision:

    • The vision must come from the top. One of the reasons why  doubling groups work at Northpoint is that Andy is casting the  vision. Often. Regularly. Personally. Publically. Andy himself  is beating the drum for multiplying small groups. I recently did  a meeting for the North Carolina Baptist Ministers of Education.  I collected four clips from four different talks that Andy has  given, restating the vision of doubling groups. He says it all  the time.
  • The leader must embody the vision. That is actually a quote  from Bill Hybels book, Courageous Leadership. Another reason why doubling groups works at  Northpoint is that Andy and Sandra are in a group. The leader  must embody the vision. I have heard Andy say, "We would do it  anyway." By this he means that he loves being in a group. He  doesn't do it because it is a good example. It is a good example  because he loves it. Let me ask you, pastor: are you in a group?  Do you love it? A friend of mine on staff at Saddleback told me  groups at Saddleback really took off when Rick Warren got in a  group and started talking about it from the pulpit. The leader  must embody the vision.

Assuming these two issues are in place, let's look at how to make  a vision stick. 

1.  State the vision simply

People don't remember paragraphs; they remember slogans. If you  can't put the vision on a business card, it is too long. You need to  be able to recall it quickly in one short sentence.

My vision: to help groups double.

Want a longer version: to help groups double through hospitality.

Want a longer version still: I don't have one. You shouldn't have  one either. Short is good.

But,  you might be thinking, short is necessarily  incomplete. Northpoint's original vision was: to create a church  that unchurched people would love to attend. Andy readily admits  that this vision statement has theological as well as other  problems. It is incomplete. It is void of any theological content.  Here is the point:

It is better to have a vision statement that is incomplete and  memorable than one that is complete and forgettable.

Ultimately, the vision is a restatement of what Jesus has told us  to do in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Here is a  simple vision statement: make disciples of the whole earth in one  generation starting with our small group. That clears out the fog.  That is the command Jesus gave the disciples and it is the command  for al of his followers. As Henry Blackaby said it, "Anything less  is planned disobedience." Want a shorter vision statement? Consider  this: make disciples.

Remember the KISS principle: Keep it Simple, Stupid!

2.  Cast the vision convincingly

Persuade people. How do you do that?

    1. Define the problem
  • Offer a solution
  • Present a reason

The vision must solve a problem. The more the people can relate  to the problem, the better. The more they see the vision as a  solution, the better.

Doubling groups will solve a problem. The problem is the mess the  world is in. We can win the whole world to God, walking in His  power, in one generation through doubling groups. A group of 10 can  reach 1000 people by doubling every 18 months. What if your church  has 500 in Sunday School. You could reach 50,000 in ten years  through doubling groups. Sound unbelievable? Northpoint will soon be  there.

3.  Repeat the vision regularly

Visions leak. You have to say it over and over and over. My best  compliment is when someone says to me, "You are saying the same  thing to our people that I have been trying to tell them. You just  say it differently." I feel I do my best work where the staff has  been beating the drum about doubling groups and hospitality. I feel  I do almost no good if they only hear it from me and never hear it  again.

At Northpoint, they have built regular vision casting into the  annual church calendar. In January and May every year they do an  emphasis on recasting the vision of the church. If you would like to  hear this year's rendition, point your browser to http://www.northpoint.org/  Be warned: I did this yesterday and ended up listening to three  whole sermons. Andy is a very compelling speaker. So, if you don't  have some time to spare, you might not want to get sucked in.

I have heard Andy cast a vision about doubling groups numerous  times. I have four different clips on my hard drive that I  have ripped from various sermons and talks over the years. There is  no secret as to how to make doubling groups work in your church. You  must make it a top level priority of the top level of leadership and  say it over and over and over again.

4.  Celebrate the vision systematically

Catch people doing something right. Then, get a big spot light and  cast it on them. I try to do this with my new video/ forum website  at  http://sundayschool.ning.com/ I am adding videos regularly of  teachers who have doubled. You can add your own, too. It is one way  to catch your people doing something right. You might have them  share at a worship service, catch it on video, and upload it to the  site.

If you are a host of a future conference, I'd like to remind you  that I would LOVE for you to set up some testimonies for the  conference.

Andy tells an incredible story about one of the Children's small  group leaders, Greg Stubbs, who is in the military. He continues to  keep up with his kids by way of email after he is deployed to Italy  and then Turkey. Andy reads an email from a mom of one of these kids  that is so appreciative of the love and concern of this soldier who  remembers her son from half a world away.

Get this: Andy reads this email in church. Then, he has the  soldier, dressed in full uniform stand up so that everyone applaud.  Here is the clincher: "If any of you have a good excuse as to why  you can't serve, I want you come down and tell Greg your excuse."

That will preach. 


Andy closes with an incredible story about his son and baseball  and vision. It is worth the price of the book. Run, don't walk to  pick up a copy of Making the Vision Stick.  You will learn four steps to making a vision stick:

  • State the vision simply
  • Cast the vision convincingly
  • Repeat the vision regularly
  • Celebrate the vision systematically