What I’m Reading: Growing People Through Small Groups (part 1)

I have finished my reading of David Stark and Betty Veldman Wieland’s book Growing People Through Small Groups.

Generally, I found the book to be helpful in providing some insight into small group ministry in the local church.  On the negative side, the myriad of anecdotes can become tiresome to read and I found myself reading those sections quickly.  That is not to say they are not helpful, illuminating, or illustrative at points, but the whole book is chalked full of personal stories or illustrations.  The authors also don’t go into great detail (it’s more spread throughout the book) the theological or biblical rationale behind organizing small groups in our churches.  That’s okay with me because I am already familiar and sold on the idea, but others may be disappointed with a more complex discussion of these foundational matters.

Also, it should be said that the authors are advocating a particular view and thus structure of small groups in the church.  The theme of people and the church as being organic (e.g. a plant) is consistent throughout the book and illustrates the philosophy of small groups encouraged.  I say philosophy because I really don’t see a model being promotes as much as an over-arching idea or theme.  There were many things that I did find helpful as I consider the small group ministry at our church.  Here are a few things that caught my attention and that I am processing from my reading.

  • A quotation from Bill Easum (I am unfamiliar with him):  “Too many leaders try to ‘cut and paste’ someone else’s vision into their setting.  Copycat visions always fail.  Leaders can’t inspire what they have not lived and spiritually died to.” This is something that I have said from the very beginning of this process and it was good to be reminded through this statement.
  • I found chapter two:  “Grow People, Not Programs” to be the most thought-provoking for me and the rest of the book building off the ideas presented therein.  Here they encourage leaders to ask “What is God up to in our church?” and “What are the people around us up to?”.  These are simple questions, but not ones that are necessarily easy to answer.
  • Then we are admonished:  “Remember:  Wherever people are in their spiritual journey is where God asks us to meet them.  All of us, are on a pilgrimage, and very few of us are at exactly the same point of spiritual development at the same time.”  Thus, a few paragraphs later the authors assert that one-size-fits-all small groups don’t work.  This is where I am particularly challenged in my thinking about small group ministry because I naturally think structurally and about organization,  even though I am very oriented towards people personally.
  • I loved the question they present toward the end of the chapter:  “The ultimate question we want people to answer is, What kind of small group would you rearrange your schedule to be a part of?” Because the answers will vary from person to person, the conclusion of the authors is that our groups must vary if we wish to reach the largest number of people in our church through small groups.
  • This is called principle based small groups:  “A principle-based small-group system that celebrates the diversity God created and embraces a variety of groups requires a broad definition of ‘small group.’  The working definition we use is this:  A small group is an intentional face-to-face gathering, varying in size and meeting regularly together to accomplish an agreed-upon Christian purpose.

This brings me to the end of chapter two.  I am going to put together my thoughts on the rest of the book and ideas I found helpful in another post.


2 responses to this post.

  1. […] April 3, 2008 by adamtisdale Update:  I have posted a more detailed post on the book starting here. […]


  2. I came across your blog when tagging the words READING GROUPS. Are you interested in reading underground fiction? If so, I am always looking for people to test out my newest work.

    If you have a chance, stop by my blog, which is a serial novel with new chapters posted each day. It takes place on the last block in Harlem..




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