Reason #2 that Groups Don’t Work in America: Boredom with the Mundane
Church leaders are not usually that good at embracing the mundane. We want results and we want them yesterday. We want something that makes for good testimonies, something that has what they call “sizzle” in the marketing world. After all we are accustomed to building churches on sizzle. In the old days, we had revival meetings, then meetings, and sing-alongs. Then we created seeker-services with all the excellence we could muster. Now we have multi-site with annual growth numbers that are staggering.
Long-term small group success lacks this sizzle that we so eagerly long for. It has little fan fare. Small groups work when leaders operate like shepherds. They do the under-ground, consistent, steady work of caring for the sheep. That is hard to promote and measure. It’s different from developing programs in the church which can be seen and measured as we build buildings, develop budget-dependent programs and attract more and more people to a centralized venue. Small group ministry happens without such clear sizzle.
Such long term success cannot be promoted, inspired or programmed. It’s a little like my farm experience as a kid. My father did not go out and inspire the cattle, sheep, chickens, rabbits, etc. to eat, grow, have babies, and do what they were supposed to do. He did not promote, strategize, develop mission statements, motivate, etc. He did not do all the things that we are told that we must do to be good leaders in the church.
Instead he was an environment creator. He focused his work the factors that contributed to a setting where the animals could naturally flourish.
And to be honest, it is boring, mundane, repetitive, inconvenient, sacrificial, long, hard work. There are no short cuts to environment creation and maintenance. But when farmers do create the right environments, the animals do what they are supposed to do.
Small group flourish when there are leaders who know how to do the mundane work of establishing and supporting environments for growth. May the Lord teach us what this looks like.