Aiden, my middle son, is a runner. When he gets hurt he bolts and Aiden is fast. It is common to hear the front door slamming and see Aiden running down the sidewalk because one of his brothers hurt him. I put on my shoes and head off to find him. Why? He is my son, part of our family. I want him home; he needs to be home.
The members of your church will get hurt from time to time. Painful events can cause them to scatter. Part of your responsibility as a spiritual leader is to get your shoes on, find those wounded and hurt sheep, and draw them back to the safety of home. Wounded sheep are more susceptible to attack, further injury, and more quickly stolen.
Make review part of your ministry flow. Who haven’t you seen in a while? Who do you need to track down and call? Who is starting to pull back and needs your calm assurance? This is not about finding the lost- this is about gathering the scattered. And don’t take it so personally. Sheep scatter; that is what we do! If you have found your self personally away from the flock, then it is time to come home. You aren’t safe, come back.
“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12)
Lucas, my oldest son, and I were walking home from school. The snow was melting but a thick glaze of ice covered our path. Lucas didn’t want to fall so he grabbed my hand. Together we walked, hand in hand, across the ice and back to safety. Some of your people are in an icy spot. They can’t move forward on their own; they are close to falling. Do not underestimate the power of human touch. God has so wired our brains that physical contact with another human being;
- lessens chronic pain
- improves heart function
- lowers high blood sugar
- improves immune functions
Human tough does truly heal! A hand on the shoulder, a hug, holding the hand of faltering family members anchors them in the reality that they are not alone. It connects them to hope. The physical gesture provides an emotional and mental assurance. It is a physical manifestation of the care and compassion of the Father in heaven.
Jesus, if you are willing you can heal me…and Jesus reached out and touched him. – (Mark 1:40-41)
You are destined to wreck your small group ministry and undermine biblical community if your focus is to multiple groups rather than leaders. The authentic ministry of healthy groups demands familial and familiar relationships. Don’t sacrifice connection so you can hit your “new group goals”. Rather, focus on identifying new leaders that can carry the responsibility to pastoring brand new groups.
Subdividing groups, making two smaller groups out of a larger group, is a multiplication strategy equivalent to taking a bus full of school kids and spreading them out among two different driver-less buses, shoving them down a hill and celebrating growth. Make sure you close your eyes so you don’t see them careen into each other, innocent telephone polls, parked cars, and the occasional brick wall. It is a lunacy equivalent to planting a church without a church planter.
Instead go slow and build into leaders. Let willing people apprentice under proven leaders. Let them get their leadership legs under them while you identify new people who need to get into community. Once you have reached critical mass (8-12 couples/ 4-6 families) and a prepared leader, launch a new group. You actually increase the leadership culture in your church, provide better pastoral care to those in established groups, and prevent more false starts. You will have more groups that last longer.
God built a family and gave them a mission. Don’t try to build a mission by dividing families.