I have two books to recommend for churches who already have small groups or who are considering starting new groups. It's always important to have a plan and especially one that fits with the overall church's plan to reach people and grow disciples. As I have said many times, groups for groups sake is not a healthy way to do groups.
The first book is Small Groups Big Impact: Connecting People to God and One Another in Thriving Groups by Jim Egli and Dwight Marable. Sounds enticing doesn't it? I mentioned this book in my last blog Open or Closed? Jim and Dwight surveyed over 3000 small group leaders in more than 200 churches to answer this question, "Why do some small groups thrive and grow while others struggle and falter?" The answers are surprisingly simple and practical. It's 105 pages of valuable insights and suggestions and challenges that are extremely helpful in assessing where your small group ministry is at and where it could be.
What becomes extremely clear is that the groups that are thriving are the ones who embody Christ to each other and through mission with a heart for lost and hurting people. While this may be nothing new in the realm of small groups, their research is a stark reminder that as a church we need to keep the main thing the main thing -- DISCIPLESHIP, DISCIPLESHIP, DISCIPLESHIP.
Small Groups Big Impact begins with a very valuable chapter on understanding small group growth. They discovered that some groups are good at Conversion Growth, others Assimilation, still others Group Multiplication. According to their research the group that embodies all three is the healthiest and fastest growing. What does make small groups grow can be boiled down to the following chapters: Pray, Reach, "Care, Empower. Each chapter focuses on one of these areas. What I found valuable in this book is the way the unfold how to develop each of these areas in your group. This is an extremely practical and valuable book with high recommendations from many of the small group gurus such as Bill Search, Joel Comiskey, Sam O'Neal and Rick Howerton.
Missional Small Groups: Becoming a Community That Makes a Difference in the World, by M. Scott Boren
This highly praised book stands out as one of the clearest and most concise books on understanding the rhythms of small groups. When the small group gets in tune with God's rhythm something remarkable happens -- mission and the embodiment of Christ, not to mention intense spiritual transformation and growth. Scott, a seasoned small group leader and pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota is a trainer and consultant and works with Allelon in developing training materials on the missional church.
One of the key focuses traditional churches especially need to be challenged with when thinking "missional" is hearing God's rhythms.
"Moving into missional life in small groups is about hearing the rhythms of the gospel again and relearning what the gospel means in our daily lives, not just when we attend church meetings." (p.51).
Among its many supporters, this book is also recommended by our own small group guru and former guide of this forum, Ruth Kelder.
"Using the concepts Scott Boren presents in this book as the foundation for training and coaching leaders, I am able to cast a greater vision for small groups, groups that go about life together in a way that brings God's kingdom on earth." (p.2)
Both of these books are on the cutting edge of where the ministry of small groups is headed.
Get them on your shelf... but make sure you read them first.
'til next time