Thursday we had our Metro Network of Small Group directors and pastors meet to discuss Small Group ministry and talk with Steve Gladen of Saddleback Church in California.  The Network is important to keep us informed but also to combat Satan’s two ‘lead off hitters,’ isolation and fear.  These are  two of his most powerful weapons in keeping us from connecting to God and experiencing the fullness of life God offers. 

Steve shared about Group life at Saddleback and coached us from his 20 + years of experience in SG ministry.  In his 11 years at Saddleback the SG ministry has grown from 200 Small Groups to over 3000.

Subjects from the Network meeting:

There are many was to start new groups.  One being Groups for Life, which actually does not split the existing group but allows them to continue to add people to their group.  What I have discovered is Groups for Life are becoming the norm, and many new groups are starting by people who have a heart for their unconnected and/or unchurched friends and family.  These Groups for life actual see families leaving the group to start new groups.  As you experience SG Community, getting to live life-on-life with others, you realize how many people in your life do not have the same friendship, encouragers, and people to walk with them through life.  We have seen couples step out of groups they thought they would be in for life because of this heart for people.  These leaders know it takes five or six invites for a person to actually try a Small Group, so they have to be inviting their friends often until a group can get started.   Then they can see Discipleship, Community and Service begin to develop in the life of their own group.

People from Saddleback have begun Workplace groups using their breaks and lunch hours to meet in SG to encourage, discuss, and pray.  They know this type of community/friendship is important because people are either in a crisis, coming out of or going into a crisis.   In a crisis, we need each other!New SG resources are coming out from Northpoint in Atlanta and Mariners Church in California.   Liquid is the hottest DVD driven resource right now.  Liquid is a 10-15 minute story on DVD with a few teachable moments accompanied by a leaders book with questions and Leader suggestions. 

The key to keeping the group healthy, or the SG ministry healthy, is to know people value what you inspect, not what you expect.  Stay in contact.  Ask questions.  Encourage others.  When you are not in crisis, walk with them through theirs.  Then when your crisis hits, they will walk with you. 

Many of us will gather again in Atlanta for the Saddleback Small Group Pastors Conference the end of April.  We know this Network continues to encoauge, educate and build community for each of the participants.  We are also seeing the benefits of the Network lived out in each of our churches.