What Do Ferns and Small Groups Have in Common?

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What do ferns and small groups have in common? They are both fractals!

I recently read a book on leadership by Margaret Wheatley called Leadership and the New Science. The book applies concepts from quantum physics to organizational leadership. She did a good job of making complex ideas simple enough for me to understand!

Fractals captured my attention. Fractals are complex forms made up of simple repeated patterns. For example, a fern is a fractal. At first glance, a fern looks like a disorganized chaos of lines and shapes. However, when examined closely, a fern’s most basic structure is one set of four lines, repeated over and over. Wheatley suggests that organizations, like matter, are formed by repeating patterns or values. Negative repeating patterns in an organization might be secrecy or self reliance, whereas, positive patterns might be truth telling, teamwork, or collaboration. Eventually, your repeating pattern becomes visible in your organization’s structure.

Small groups are small organizations. Small Groups and leaders can envision, model and practice spiritual transforming patterns. Jesus did that with his disciples. He led with prayer and dependency on the Word of God. He sent them out to do what he did, then brought them back for debriefing. The disciples followed Jesus’ patterns and did what he did.

Over the last few weeks we have highlighted a variety of types of small groups. Each group strategy highlights different practices or patterns. Gospel-Centered life has a strong emphasis on repentance and accountability. Alpha (see What is Alpha and Alpha: An Answer for a "Kingdom Advancing Church") is characterized by a relaxed atmosphere and Holy Spirit expectation. One person that I know who attended Alpha and larger groups called "pastorates" at Holy Trinity Brompton said the repeated pattern for meetings was that everyone was prayed for at each meeting. Triads (see Discipleship Triads or Quads and A Real-life Example of Triads and Quads) have repeated patterns of three people, scripture, and accountability.

What patterns are you building into your small group? Are they positive or negative? What repeated patterns would you like to characterize your local group of Jesus followers?

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