The Kingdom of God spreads through multiplication, and it is effective to be intentional about using your small group ministry to multiply the power of God to build His Kingdom. When you have a powerful small group that is changing lives and impacting people, it may be a good idea to consider splitting the group into two (or more) groups in order to multiply that effect. This goes against the nature of many people, who think “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but we urge you to consider this concept.
Positives and Negatives
There are some really powerful reasons to consider dividing up groups:
- More groups are available to members of the community or church.
- It helps to develop new leaders, who might not have otherwise had the courage or opportunity to step up.
- It keeps groups small, which is best for the sense of closeness and community (8-12 people is ideal) – more than that, it’s time to divide.
- It helps to guard against exclusivity. A group that is together for a long time without bringing in new members can become inward-focused and self-centered, rather than outwardly focused on building the Kingdom.
- New friends and new relationships are built.
- Personal growth is enhanced. When we get settled into a long-time group, we often find ourselves in a comfort zone and not challenged to grow. Being willing to sacrifice comfort and accept new challenges will enhance our opportunities to grow.
- New enthusiasm is introduced. People who are beginning something new often have a fresh enthusiasm that long-timers have forgotten. Bringing in new people can keep your mindset open and fresh.
- It’s a new opportunity to reach people who desperately want/need a group. There might be people in your church/community who are in deep need of a Christian community who just need an opportunity to join a group of people who will encourage their faith.
- It’s biblical! Christ Himself used this model with His disciples. They moved from disciples to apostles, who grew their own ministries and spread His Kingdom all across the world!
It’s also important for leaders to be aware of potential negatives to splitting. There will be resistance from members who are happy and comfortable in the current small group. Some very entrenched groups might resent being forced to change, so a leader has to be prayerful and wise about how hard to push the group to split. New groups will very likely not be as good as the old group was, at least in the beginning. Members have to be prepared for there to be a transition period that might be difficult or uncomfortable.
How to Successfully Divide and Multiply
Once you decide to move forward with splitting a group, here are the steps for making it as successful as possible.
- Cast the vision early – it’s important to affect the larger body of Christ.
- Select an apprentice or two and give them opportunity to grow as a leader. Encourage them to be preparing to start their own group. Start them small with simple tasks and then grow their responsibilities as they’re ready.
- If possible, pre-determine the mission of the NEW group and talk through it with existing group members. This may uncover some common denominators among existing group members that a new group can be based on – a shared experience or goal rather than just location or life stage.
- Ask for volunteers to serve as host early on – either occasionally or on a regular basis. This will expose people to various leadership tasks and help build confidence in their ability to lead.
- Determine who will go where. Create 2 groups out of the current members – some staying and some members going with the new leader. Alternatively, the existing leaders can leave to start a brand new group and put a new leader in place, or several groups can break off and all begin new groups. These conversations can be awkward and result in hurt feelings. Encourage everyone to be open and honest, be filled with grace, and remember that the purpose is to build the Kingdom.
- Count down. Don’t wait until the last minute – encourage group members to pray about the possibilities. It also gives members time to embrace the idea of dividing as you are likely to have push back on this concept.
- Celebrate the new groups and keep casting the vision!
Making the Decision to Divide
How does a group leader know when it’s time to divide and multiply? It may be time to divide when:
- You sense there is a leader in the making
- Discussion with your members sounds positive
- You have prayed about it and feel that it’s time to move ahead
- Your group has been together more than 18 months
Timing is everything. Don’t divide in the Spring. Stay together through the Summer; share some great memories and divide in the Fall.
The ultimate goal of small groups is enabling life change through discipleship in community. After a group finds success and does well, it’s time to start thinking about how to expand the group’s impact. One powerful way to do that is to break up the group. That might sound counter-intuitive, but dividing a group can make room for more people to join, be affected, and multiply the number of lives changed. Dividing to multiply may not make sense in math class, but it’s magic in small group ministry. Boldly move forward and see how God will multiply your groups for His Kingdom!
Watch a 50-minute recorded webinar presenting this material: