Last night I finished up a short book called Simple Small Groups: A User-Friendly Guide for Small Group Leaders by Bill Search. It had been a while since I had read any small group material and these type of books don't usually make for the most engaging reading, but I really liked it. This book wasn't like most I had read before. It didn't talk about coaching structures or zone pastors, it didn't advocate for a cookie cutter type approach to small groups. It was refreshingly simple and I think anyone leading a small group (or a cgroup) could really get a lot of this quick read.
Search identifies three key components of a healthy small group (he refers to them as 'patterns')- connecting (relationships), changing (transformation), and cultivating missional patterns of living (an outward focus). The key insight from his book is that groups don't need to 'balance' these three components but every group must embrace these components to some degree. Some healthy groups will spend 80% of their time focused on transformation but spend the other 20% of their time/energy on relationally connecting and serving. His approach reminds me of what good parents know of their kids. My niece Kayla spends massive amounts of time playing basketball - that's why she's the player of the year in PA and has a full ride to Notre Dame. Yet, she still needs to study and relax with friends. My cousin David is brilliant and a really good artist. I would venture a guess that he spends more time studying and drawing and less time playing basketball. Yet, if he's going to stay healthy, he needs physical activity too. At the age of my kids, it's hard to tell what they'll be great at or love the most - so we try to expose them to a lot of things and keep our eyes out for what excites them and where they excel. Eventually we encourage them to be more specialized according to the talents and passions.
I do think this approach is more realistic that one that forces every group or ministry to spend balanced amounts of time on all three components. The beauty of Search's book is that it is simple and very useful. He does a great job helping leaders understand where their groups are and offers a lot of practical advice on how to help move a group to deeper levels of connecting, changing or cultivating missional lifestyles.
Again, I'd recommend the book. If your summer list is too long already, then mark off Sept 26th - Bill Search will be leading a small group leaders seminar here at ECC!