Yesterday, Rick Howerton posted what he believes are the “10 Discipleship Confusions Invading the Small Group World.” Rick and I think a lot alike, and I believe he “nailed it” with his characterization of many of the current trends in small groups ministry.
Here’s my own summary of Rick’s post, and I’m talking particularly to church leaders and small group ministers:
not to make bigger small group ministries.
If we can do both–make and continually develop disciples and get more people into small groups where that is happening–that’s great! But too often, I think, we must trade off one for another. And if I had to choose, I’d take discipling less people over not really discipling more people in groups.
I’ve written about this in a couple of my books, The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership and Small Group Vital Signs. Within a small group, I believe one leader can, at best, disciple and shepherd 2-3 others … not 10 or 12. That’s why sharing leadership with a Core Team is so vital. At the macro-level, as a small groups ministry, we need to get back to focusing on our calling–to make disciples who are making disciples.
In both of the books mentioned above, I sensed the need to define–or perhaps redefine–the word discipleship. Rick gets at that in several of his “confusions.” I think many people are confused about what discipleship really is and what it entails in small groups. My simple way of looking at this is to ask, “How would Jesus’ disciples define what it means to be a disciple?” I address that question in Chapter 7 of Small Group Vital Signs.
If you lead the small group ministry in your church, here are 10 questions to consider:
- Are the small groups under my care making disciples?
- How do I know the answer to #1? (Have you assessed this, or are you just going with your gut?)
- How do we define disciple and discipleship in our church and in our small groups ministry?
- What is our strategy for making disciples? Is there a process?
- If the answer to the previous question is yes, do our small group leaders know and understand this strategy and process?
- What is the small group leader’s role in making disciples in his or her group?
- In what specific ways are we equipping, developing, and then coaching leaders and groups to make disciples?
- What strategies (such as sharing leadership with a Core Team) are in place to help group leaders make disciples?
- What resources are we providing to help groups make disciples?
- How do we define a “win” when it comes to making disciples?