A common fear from leaders of Small Groups is “‘splitting’ my group.”  For some reason this nasty word gets passed down from generation to generation as something that “has to happen” when your group/class begins to grow and/or becomes too large.   NO, it doesn’t have to be this way. 

After 21 years in ministry, education ministry focused, I can tell you that I have only tried to split two classes.  Both were obedient attempts in the nature of what I had been taught.  Both caused me much heartburn, lost friendships, sleepless nights and brought no additional classes.  Do I need to tell you that I don’t encourage “splitting” classes/groups anymore?

What we now practice is “Apprenticing.”  Each new Small Group Leader is asked and assisted with the enlistment of an apprentice from the very start of their group.  We ask Small Groups to try and send out an apprentice in 6, 12 or 18 months after the start of their group. 

This spring we saw this happen when a fairly new Small Group Leader challenged his group to reach out to their friends and neighbors to start a new, temporary Small Group for 6 weeks.  This was in conjunction with a church-wide study on John 3:16.  Three of the five couples took the challenge and invited people to their house for this six weeks.  What is amazing is that four months later all four groups are still meeting and growing.  They have begun to practice the Discipleship, Community and Service objectives of Small Groups. 

We plan to start many groups in 2008 in order to see more people be involved in relationships that are uplifting and inspiring.  Apprenticing and challenging people to see how God wants to use them to build relationship with neighbors and friends is a positive term and experience that enables this to happen.  It has become the foundation we build on to see more and more people develop close, real, transparent friendships where everyone can share their joys and struggles and be encouraged. 

Who is your apprentice?