In the last few weeks, I’ve had some good conversations with Small Group Leaders about multiplying their groups. It seems the first step in this process is the most difficult, but it's the most important! The first step is to believe that we should work toward multiplication. I’d love to give you seven reasons why multiplying your group should be one of your goals as a leader.

However, before we get there, I want to propose a new word for multiplying: branching. This word paints a mental picture of progression and growth. When I think about a branch, I can’t help but think about previous branches and future branches. In John 15, Jesus reminds us that we are branches, which can either bear good or bad fruit, if we abide in Him, the original vine. Good growth comes from a stable source and can multipy well. The way branches grow allows us to see a model for how small groups grow. Someone before us came out of a group or started a group, giving us existence. And one day, you will give existence to a new group when you decide to branch out.

Small Groups are a great space for community to grow, but they are also an evangelism tool. Small Groups don’t exist just to provide community and discipleship to people who are already believers. Jesus commands, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” John 13:34-35. This command reminds us to evangelize and help bring new people into a relationship with Christ, His people, and His church.

Here are the reasons to consider branching your Small Group:

1. Newsflash, your group is going to change. People will get a new job, transfer to a different city, some will have crises with their parents, or some may go to another church. Whatever the cause, change is coming. Think back to your own group a year ago. For 98% of you, your group is not made up of the same exact people. Since it is changing anyway, let’s go with the flow and leverage that for Kingdom expansion.

2. Branching teaches your group members to be outwardly focused. It’s easy to get comfortable where we are and uncaring about those who aren’t in God’s family yet. Branching helps keep the focus on reaching people who aren’t here yet. Where would we be if the first century church didn’t focus on branching? 

3. If you aren’t willing to branch, you will have to reject new people. This is particularly true of off-campus groups that hit the ceiling of space and childcare more quickly, but it is true for every group. Put yourself in the shoes of a person being told there’s no room for them in the group. Some people don’t need much of an excuse to turn away from pursuing God, and we certainly don’t want to be a reason that people do so.

4. Branching allows people to use their spiritual gifts in God’s work. Quite often, there are people in our groups who haven’t been able to recognize or use their spiritual gifts. That results in frustration that may or may not be evident to you as a group leader. We must remember that all spiritual gifts are important, especially for branching. Someone in your group may have the gift of leadership and would be a great new leader. Others may have the gift of hospitality, service, or mercy (to name a few), which can help in the process of branching.

5. Branching creates an emptier space that begs to be filled. Okay, this dynamic is just common sense. When the room is too full a group may not motivated to invite others. However, if you create space, then it will be natural to invite new people to fill it up again.

6. The most sustainable groups are branches of another group. The groups that I have seen be the most healthy are those who have started from within a healthy group. This is why I encourage you as a group to be comfortable with branching out. It’s the trickle-down effect of good discipleship.

7. The goal is to make disciples. By branching, we are following Jesus and making disciples of His kingdom. We all want to be part of the Great Commission, and obey James 1:22 (NIV), “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

Check the blog in a few weeks for a continued discussion of the practical issues and steps toward  multiplication, now known as branching.