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Posted by on Oct 22, 2010 in Blog |

Open Groups – Part 1 (Conversation with Rick Howerton)

I had the opportunity to talk with long-time small groups guru Rick Howerton and bounce a few questions his way regarding our fledgling groups ministry.  Rick was very gracious with his time and really ‘leaned into’ our ministry situation as he posed questions and shared from his experience.  I was encouraged greatly by our conversation.

One of the questions we discussed actually came from one of our facilitators.   The question went something like this: “How can we become an open group when so many of our current members value our current group chemistry and intimacy?”

Great question.

Open vs. Closed Groups
One of the things I learned from Rick (and from another groups guy who blindsided me a bit on his blog) is that there is an ongoing debate regarding whether groups should be ‘open’ or ‘closed’.  Some argue that all groups should be closed, others say that groups must be open, and many others find themselves somewhere in the middle.  I won’t open up the debate here, but I will mention one insight I gleaned from Rick.  When it comes to which side you land on, consider what the overall goal of the group is.  Here’s what Rick said:

 “If the goal of the group is friendship and intimacy, the group needs to stay closed.”

If the goal of your group is to develop deep, intimate friendships, it makes sense that your group remains closed.  If you are consistently inviting new people in and spinning off new groups, it becomes difficult to consistently deepen the level of trust and cohesion within the group.

However, Rick went on to say:

“If the goal of the group is discipleship, the group needs to be open.”

The reason the Twelve didn’t remain a closed group is they weren’t just friends of Jesus, they were disciples of Jesus.  Disciples are gatherers, growers, and goers.  They invite others into the discipleship process and multiply themselves.  Therefore, if the goal of your group is discipleship, then your group must be open and multiply.

Next week I’ll post Part 2 of this series.  But before then, think about these questions:

  • What is the primary goal of my group?  Is it friendship or discipleship?  Why?
  • If the goal of my group is friendship and intimacy, what intentional actions am I taking to nurture that culture within the group?  What are we doing to deepen friendships within the group?
  • If the goal is discipleship, how am I building the proper culture within the group?  How is discipleship taking place?  How do I know?