I am meeting with a handful of other small group pastors of the Milwaukee area today for one of our regular networking gatherings. One of them posed this topic for discussion:
Small group ministry will forever wrestle with the issue of which is the greater value: mission and multiplication or relationship and community? Steve Gladen (Saddleback’s small group pastor) writes,
Small groups need a simple mission. Too often small-group “theory” dictates that groups should be constantly multiplying. These strategies often place too much pressure on an average leader to be a “church strategist” instead of a relationship builder. We help small group leaders relax and use their natural desire to serve in ways that help their group grow closer.
When John and Mary walk in the front door of a small group, they’re hoping that someone will be there who will greet them warmly, love them for who they are, pray for their challenges, encourage their growth in Christ, and praise their answered prayers. The last thing they want is those friends they are starting to trust—those people who they now feel ready to open up with—suddenly say, “OK, it was fun knowing you. Let’s all pray about the new small groups we are going to start!” Life on life takes time. One piece of iron doesn’t sharpen another piece of iron with one brush against it. Iron on iron has to happen many times in order for both to be sharpened.
Yet many of us agree that to fulfill the Great Commission small groups can play a key role in multiplying disciples. Is this a “both/and” rather than “either/or”?
Although I’m generally quite flexible on what small group leaders do with their groups, I have some strong feelings on this issue. I am looking forward to seeing where our dialog takes us.