The Sunday School Director has just left a classroom after sharing his vision of a new group that this class could start. As the door shuts behind him, the class which sat quietly through his presentation and request, erupts in opposition. In so many words, they let their teacher know that they are NOT going to let "that man" split them up!
The following scene occurs so often that it has now become the common experience for just about any leader who has asked a large group to begin a new class. Speak to most Sunday School classes or small groups about reproducing themselves and "resistance" will be the word of the day. This attitude did not happen overnight. Reluctance to begin new groups became a part of the Sunday School culture years ago and it is now entrenched. I believe that one of the primary reasons behind this attitude is that our groups have become more concerned with being protective of their identity rather than planting their identity.
So obviously, groups that refuse to plant a new group have an identity crisis! When a group takes its eyes off of Jesus and puts its gaze on protecting the group, it has exchanged its identity in Christ for a human identity. I'm really weighing my words here carefully, and I'll probably get in trouble for this but… here goes. Folks, this is a form of idolatry. The identity of your group or class is not in yourselves, it is in Jesus.
Another thing that happens when we choose to protect the group rather than plant a group is that we lose focus on our mission. Our mission is make Jesus famous and the more groups we have doing that, the better! By refusing to start new groups, we focus more on group protection than expanding the Kingdom of God into our neighborhoods.
Here are some reasons why your class should consider beginning a new group:
- New groups grow faster. They just do. Existing classes are virtually guaranteed of having people in attendance each week. New groups have no such guarantee. They must labor to build the new group. The result is that they are more driven to reach out.
- New groups provide more opportunities for lost or unchurched people to "stick". The more groups your church has, the more people it can both minister to AND involve in the mission.
- New groups put our faith into action. Do we really believe that Jesus is building His church? If so, we should begin new groups and put action to our faith. James said, "Faith without works is dead".
- New groups put more people into leadership and therefore more people are using their spiritual gifting.
- Finally, new groups are adventurous. New groups bring excitement and adventure to the church, and let's be honest… some of our churches could use a little excitement!
Missional small communities have group planting as part of their DNA. In fact, I am going to step out on a limb and say that if your group or class has not started a new group in two years or more, then you have not yet become a missional small community.