A Simple Picture of Success

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Four basic principles for growing a healthy small group.
by Brett Eastman

When I first joined the staff at Saddleback Church. Rick told me he reserved seats for over 800 men on 7 different 747s headed to Washington, DC for Promise Keepers. I suggested we recruit leaders from some of the existing men’s groups to launch a few more men’s groups from the 800+ men going to the event. Over 300 men said they wanted to join a group, and half dozen men agreed to lead them.

We launched 32 groups from those 800 men; almost 300 men got connected. But there was only a 50 percent group success rate, which disappointed me. Rick Warren said, “That’s okay. At least 50 percent of them stayed connected.” Eventually, that rate grew to 72 percent until we had connected almost 8000 people in groups over a 3-year period.

From this experience, I learned that small group health depends upon the following four realities.

1. You need a simple picture of success. Small group ministries need to begin with the end in mind. When you begin with the end in mind you realize it is a changed life that matters—a life molded to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Remember that a successful small group is one that connects people in authentic community for life so that they have a spiritual family and will forever grow in their relationship with Christ. Not just for a season but forever.

Small groups aren’t just a forum for fellowship. Small groups are a forum for the Great Commission and Great Commandment to be realized in people’s lives.

2. You need a strategic process. First, you’ve got to have a process that brings them in. Then you’ve got to have a process that builds them up. Then you’ve got to have a process that trains them. Lastly, you need a process to push them out on their own.

On average, a church member who’s been a Christian for ten years is not connected in community. But if that person was given a process that outlined growth beyond the elementary stage of a spiritual walk, they usually don’t stay there. Participating in a small group is the “training wheel” phase of the process; leading a small group is when they ride the bike on their own. Giving people a picture of this process is motivational and gives everybody a place to start.

3. You need a supporting paradigm. To do this, you need to mobilize players on a team to help champion the purposes within a person’s life. If you don’t have someone in the group encouraging people to discover their God-given gifts and encouraging them to take steps in their faith, you won’t grow your small group ministry. To build a small group ministry, you need a structure that serves.

4. You need to remember that you’re birthing. “Birthing” is a word no one likes. But it connotes the hard work, time, and emotions that are involved in creating a healthy small group ministry. Though the process is difficult, you will be rewarded when new lives are born for Christ.

5. Prepare your members to tell the rest of the story. Plan on bringing small group members to church on Easter, which will be very Passion-centered this year. Launching new small groups after Easter is a natural step.

Even strong believers who view this film will be challenged to take their relationship with Jesus to the next level.

Don’t miss this opportunity to use your small groups Sunday school classes to reach out and launch new groups during this turning point in history.

Have fun sharing The Passion together!


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Brett Eastman About Brett Eastman

Brett Eastman has served as the small groups champion in several of the largest mega churches in the country including Saddleback Church, Willow Creek and Fellowship of the Woodlands for over a dozen years. After founding Lifetogether - 10 years ago he has either consulted and/or produced Custom DVD Curriculum and training materials for 100 of the largest and fastest growing churches in America. He has published with the top 10 Christian Publishers, produced over 250 bestselling series, designed dozens of church wide campaigns, and produced on camera over 500 bestselling authors, pastors and church leaders selling over 4,000,000 copies to date including the Award Winning Purpose Driven Group Series, Doing Lifetogether Series published by Zondervan. Lifetogether's focus is to partner with local church pastors trying to help connect their entire congregation by producing innovative small group resources in order to ultimately reach their community through community.

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