I always am on the lookout for teaching points regarding small groups, and here is solid wisdom from Rick Warren:
Did you know that you get a new skeleton every seven years? Your bone marrow is constantly creating new bone, and you’re sloughing off old cells so that your skeleton can grow with your body. For our church to keep growing, our structure also has to change constantly.
The only purpose of restructuring is to prepare a church for growth and to break through barriers. About 95 percent of all the churches in the world stop growing before they get to 300 people because they are structured to be at a size less than 300. It’s not the problem of the pastor or the people; it’s a problem of the structure.
We often ask the wrong question. The wrong question is, “What will help my church grow?” The right question is, “What is keeping my church from growing?” Growth is natural. All living things naturally grow. I don’t have to command my kids to grow; they just do it, if they’re healthy. If our church is healthy, then it is going to automatically grow.
A church becomes healthy by removing the barriers and balancing the purposes. There are 10 common barriers that keep our church from growing. The first six are:
Members won’t bring their friends to church: You can’t grow a church without guests. One of the reasons Christians won’t bring their friends to church is that they’re embarrassed or they think, “This is a church that meets my needs, but it’s not geared for my friend, an unbeliever, to understand it.” You have to create a service that is understandable but not watered-down.
People fear that growth will ruin the fellowship: Many churches say they are a loving church, but what they mean is that they are good at loving each other and not unbelievers. When members love their fellowship so much that they don’t want anyone new, then they’re not going to bring friends. The average member of a church knows 67 people, whether you have 67 people at your church or 6,000. If you only want to have a church of people you know, you’re only going to have about 67 people. The antidote to this barrier is affinity groups. The church must grow larger and smaller at the same time — larger through worship (weekend services) and smaller through fellowship (small groups).
Churches are driven by tradition rather than the purposes of God: Tradition is a good thing — as long as it works. Never confuse the message with the methods. The message must never change, but the methods have to change. If you don’t change methods from generation to generation, you are being unfaithful.
One of the most expensive and difficult things to do is keep a corpse from stinking. If there are programs in our church that died a long time ago; we need to give them a decent burial. Periodically, we should go through everything we’re doing and ask, “Should I reaffirm it, refine it, or do I need to replace it?” The hardest thing to give up is what worked before, but sometimes you have to stop it before it starts declining.
Churches are trying to appeal to everybody: Our church cannot be all things to all people. The moment we choose a style of music, we are going to turn someone off. We need to know whom our church can best reach in your community. Define that group of people, and then go after them.
Churches are program-oriented rather than process-oriented: A lot of churches think the goal is to keep the saints busy, and people are just worn out. Programs and events should not drive the church; they should fulfill the purposes. Where do we want to take our people in the next 10 years? Where do we want them to be different? Set a goal by determining your role — what God has called you to do. Once you know that, then you decide what programs best accomplish that goal.
Churches focus on meetings rather than ministry: When the number one qualifier in our church is attendance, then we are facing this barrier. It’s not all about the weekend; the weekend is simply the funnel by which you start the discipleship process. If Christianity is a life and not a religion, then it should focus on where we live our lives — at home, work, etc., and not at church. When we focus on meetings, we’re building a group of spectators. We don’t need more meetings; we need to meet more needs. You do that by turning every member into a minister.