After someone on Twitter shared how this Preface explains how my three books on small groups work together, I thought I'd share it here:
I enjoy reading the back-story of how a book is developed, so I thought I would try my hand at it. Let me first state that this book is an accident, at least as much as it is possible for something that takes so much work to be called an accident. I never intended to write it. In fact, after writing Missional Small Groups, I told a friend I did not want to write another book on groups for a while. So how did this accident happen?
First, there were three chapters that I could not include in my book Missional Small Groups because the intended audience was group leaders. These three chapters were written for church leaders and pastors. While consulting with pastors on the phone, I would send them these chapters and their feedback revealed that the information was helpful.
So I called up my friend Randall Neighbour and asked him if his publishing ministry would like to do a revision of my earlier book The Relational Way, inserting the three chapters in the beginning. He liked the idea, and I prepared the chapters and sent them to him. However, when he opened up the original computer file for The Relational Way to create the revision, he found that it was corrupted and could not be recovered. His only solution was to scan or rekey the original book and start from scratch.
At this point, I suggested that we do a totally new book. My idea was to put these three chapters with some other material I had written or taught over the last couple of years. I thought I had enough to create a 100-page booklet. To my surprise, I found more than 100 pages. Far more!
Believe it or not, this book came together over the period of weeks. As soon as Randall and I agreed on a new title, I pulled this together and churned out words faster than Carl Lewis running on a six pack of Red Bull. For this reason, this may very well be my best book yet. I find that I when words flow quickly, I speak more from my heart. Conversely, it might be my worst book to date. I put myself “out there” in this book in ways that I have not done in others by speaking from my experience and without providing lots of supporting evidence, footnotes, quotes, or statistics. It’s raw, and it lacks nuance. Some readers will love this. Others will read the book and wish I’d been a more balanced. With all this in mind, please indulge me. I’m a brash Texan living in Minnesota where nice is very important. Missional Small Groups is my nice book. MissioRelate is less so, even though I still attempt to ruffle as few feathers as possible. The reality is that what I’m writing about in this book has changed everything for me. You’ll see why in the chapters that follow.
One final thought: After completing the manuscript, I realized that this resource works hand-in-glove with my previous book The Relational Way. The ten chapters in The Relational Way provide a theological nuance and justification to the ten chapters in part two of this book, helping a leadership team of a church lead their groups into MissioRelate. And taking it one step further, these resources, coupled with the resources for group leaders (Missional Small Groups and the companion study guide), provide a foundation for something that has changed almost everything I have thought about small groups.