During the Growth Period…
Recognize new leaders. Encourage your group to succeed by keeping an eye out for an individual or couple who are both gifted and willing to serve in an apprentice leader role. Talk to the couple and establish a weekly or bi-weekly time to get together to discuss the biblical roles of leadership, your experiences as a leader, and to pray together.
Your group also needs to know that this person or couple has stepped forward. Give your emerging leaders opportunity to practice what you’re teaching them. Let them take the lead once a month—you’ll appreciate the breather too! When God grows your group, the couple will be well prepared to take on the role of leading a second small group.
Acknowledge your growth. Talk together as a group about how God is growing your numbers. Praise God for the new friends and the ways they contribute to your fellowship. Always approach the growth as a positive thing, and regularly encourage your small group members to continue reaching out with God’s love to the people in their lives.
Of course growth can be a rocky road, and your small group may hit a few of those bumps. New personalities may trigger tension and disagreement. Regular attendees may fear or dislike growth, and the changes that come along with it. They may want things to stay familiar and comfortable. Be ready for this. Make it clear through your own prayers and words that your group is about reaching people with God’s love—that one of your key goals is to grow and grow and grow—because more people in your small group means more people in the Kingdom of God!
When It’s Time to Birth Your Group…
Send out “birth announcements”! Plan for the apprentice(s) to lead a new group “birthed” from your group. Set a date for this “birth” and make some special plans to celebrate (more on this below). Invite other members of members of your church as well, who may be looking to get in with a new group.
Also, encourage your current group members to seek God’s direction as to which group they’ll meet with. They may select one or the other group based on location, topics, their own gift mix, and their potential to contribute to one of the groups. Encourage them to set up a time to talk with you or the apprentice leader(s) if they’d like to discuss their decision.
Conduct a wrap-up session. Spend a final meeting evaluating how the group has grown (spiritually and numerically). Discuss what worked and what didn’t—encourage group members to be honest and to keep in mind how things could be done differently in the new groups.
Go out with a bang! Call a special meeting to plan what this might look like. Have a party, cookout, or potluck. Plan a prayer time and a “memory” time to reflect on your time together as a group. Celebrate the ways God has used your group…and pray for each of the new groups.
After the Multiplication…
Keep praying for one another. Prayer is a habit you’ve practiced week after week, and you have special insights into the needs of your small group because you’ve walked with them for some time. So keep things going. Commit to pray for everyone in both groups. If you don’t have specific prayer requests, perhaps that’s your cue to contact them.
Keep in touch. There are many quick ways to do this. Send an email update and ask what’s going on in their worlds. Send cards or handwritten notes. Invite group members to have coffee or a meal from time to time.
Be careful, though, not to “take over” the leadership of those that aren’t in your group. Remember to encourage those in the second group to take prayer concerns to their leader and members of their small group also. Keep in touch with your apprentice in the same ways. Stay connected with how he or she is doing and how the new small group is going. Get together regularly to talk and pray.
Have reunion celebrations. Just because you’ve multiplied, it doesn’t mean that friendships can’t continue between your small-group members. Plan regular times to get together as two small groups. You could leverage big events like the Super Bowl, Independence Day, or Valentine’s Day, or just plan to do your “fun nights” together every few months. You could even hold annual reunions, where you invite everyone who has ever attended your small group(s) to come together once again to touch base. Of course, have a meal and give people time to visit informally. But be sure to include a time where people can update the group(s) with what’s going on in their lives.
And, of course, take time to celebrate the ways God is moving in each group!
Parts of this article excerpted from Small Group Ministry in the 21st Century (© 2005, Group Publishing, Inc.)
The Lord is at work redeeming and sanctifying a people for Himself.