SMALL GROUPS & Should You Close Small Groups? Not unless absolutely necessary.

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/9/15.

A student after studying my chapter and chart on “Missteps With Small Groups” in Growth by Accident, Death by Planning (Abingdon Press) said, “I believe we should re-assess all of our small groups and find out if they are truly needed and if not then we should transition people into different groups.”

This statement was a red flag for me.  Let me explain why.

People in small groups like to stay in their small groups.  It is their accountability and small community group.  You must be careful before you “transition people” into other groups unless they really, really need this.

ClustersBookIt has been my observation that when groups have change thrust upon them in the name of innovation, most of the time the innovation doesn’t occur and people are only hurt because they’ve lost the small group community that meant so much to them.  And, over the years I’ve not seen small groups as the place where we innovate.  Instead, they are where we commune. Thus, if at all possible don’t eliminate small groupings.

Instead, you can combine 2-3 small groups together once a month for outreach. This is called “clustering” small groups (see Bob Hopkins and Mike Breen, Clusters: Creative Mid-sized Missional Communities (3dm Publications).  Clustering lets the groups remain together, but when they join with a few other groups once a month they then have enough person-power to do effective social action ministry in the community.

So …

  • Add small groups (so more people can be in small groups)
  • Cluster small groups (so more social action can take place via a cluster of small groups)
  • But don’t split or close a small group (for this is their spiritual community) unless, absolutely necessary.

I hope these reflections help you pause before you close a small group.

Speaking hashtags: #StLizTX #StMarksTX

SMALL GROUPS & Should We Be Birthing (or Celling) New Groups? Yes!

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/9/15.

Over the years I’ve discovered that using the terms “cell groups” (e.g. leadership teams or discipleship groups) or “celling” too often confuses people because it insinuates that small groups of leaders or small groups for discipleship must equally divide, as a biological “cell” would do, into two even halves.

I have found that this tactic, based upon equal division of a small group, is often resisted by group members because they need a consistency of participants to foster openness and accountability. Thus people’s need for the stability they have found in small groups and teams makes them resist launching a new small group out of the their group (which they fear would undercut their cohesiveness and candidness).

However, small groups will usually be open to a few individuals “planting” a small group like them (I sometimes call this “birthing a small group from the DNA of the mother small group”).

ATTACHED IS AN AUDIO NOTE with more of my thoughts on this.  I think this helps explain why celling (equally dividing of a small group) usually does not work in North America, but why “birthing” a small group from the DNA of the mother group does work.