I recently read through Creating Community by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits, and I must say that it is the most helpful and insightful book on small group ministry that I have ever read. The book describes the small group ministry of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, asks ministers to answer probing questions about their ministries, and all in all is a great “how to” book for small group ministries. Since I’m a Discipleship Minister, and the primary person in charge of small groups at 24church, I need to read books like this often.
Andy Stanley is one of the best strategists and most insightful thinkers in the church arena today. Highlights to NPCC’s strategy include:
1) A closed-group system rather than an open-group system. (The individual small groups covenant together for 1.5 – 2 years and new members do not join.) This helps prevent an ADD mentality within the group and allows close relationships and deeper spiritual growth to occur. At the same time (just in case you were wondering) the group still seeks to reach outsiders / non-Christians, but not through inviting them to their small group.
2) A good strategy for forming new small groups. NPCC has a group forming strategy known as GroupLink. GroupLink is an event that happens quarterly at NPCC and allows people interested in small groups to meet other interested people and join a group. However, members don’t sign the group covenant until they have tried out the group for 6 weeks. This is NPCC’s “try before you buy” policy; it helps to eliminate bad group situations and alleviate stress in people thinking about joining a new group.
3) A childcare policy. NPCC will reimburse anyone who needs help paying for childcare while their group meets. This is a great idea because even though childcare is expensive, it is still millions of dollars cheaper than building Sunday School space in a building that will remain empty and unused for most of the week. (Small groups just make more sense to me than Sunday School in a new church situation.)
4) A multiplication plan. Each group covenants together to help start a new group by the time their group ends in 18-24 months. Since teaching and leadership tasks are shared by everyone in each group, leaders who could eventually start a new group naturally emerge as they help lead their current group.
These aren’t all the details, but they are some of the highlights of the NPCC strategy. I’m pretty encouraged after reading Creating Community, and I’m in the midst of reformulating and rethinking 24church’s small group strategy.