5 May, 2005 9:48 AM
Last night at LivingRoom we met to talk about how we should grow.
Since starting just over 2 years ago we've grown numerically from a group of 7 (including one child) to a group of 25 (including up to 5 children).
The dynamics have obviously changed in this time - we've gone from meeting around a table to meeting around a lounge room. We've gone from an easy to organize meal to something that requires a roster. We've gone from an intimate group where all can quite naturally find a space to be heard to one where some personality types find it more difficult to speak.
These changes are not necessarily bad - they're just different and have led us to go back to rethinking some of the founding values that we started with.
This week I went back through the notes we made when we first started meeting and was interested to discover that we'd actually named 'smallness' as a value.
Ok - it never made it into our three core values - but it was talked about a lot early on.
I shared last night a little of why we initially valued smallness and as a result named right up front that we wanted to grow by multiplication (starting new groups) rather than by growing into a large group:
- Previous Experiences of Large Church - We were all pretty honest about our previous experiences of church in the early days. While most of us had had pretty positive experiences of churches of all sizes - one of the themes that emerged early on was that we'd seen things in larger churches that left us thirsting for something different (including some of the following). I don't think any of us were (or are) 'anti' large church - we just wanted to experience and try something different.
- Intimacy - We all desired to be in a group that was connected and able to share on a deeper level.
- Community - There was a real sense that people longed for an experience of shared life
- Local Focus - We all initially lived reasonably close to one another and had a real heart for the local area
- Commitment and Participation - Whilst we were keen not to let 'church' dominate and take us away from the rest of our lives - we also desired to be a community committed to one another - to participation (not just attendance) and to unashamedly growing in and exploring our core values.
- Accountability - The group felt that out of the intimacy, community and commitment would come a level of accountability between one another.
- Logistics - There was a desire that we not become a group distracted by the logistics of staff, buildings, resources etc. 'Simplicity' was a word that was used early on a bit.
These things are not impossible in a large church - and they are not guaranteed in a small one. However our theory at the time was that perhaps in a small setting these elements would be a more natural thing. It was an untested theory - but it was something we wanted to test and out of it we made a decision to be a multiplying group.
Nice theory - but is there any truth to it?
Last night we had some good discussion around this question and the general feeling was that as we've grown, these things have become more difficult. Of course as we've grown other wonderful things have happened (there is a sense of momentum, variety, freshness, diversity etc) - however there are some costs to these things also.
So the decision has been made to multiply.
I'll post at some point in the next few days about the dilemma of 'how to multiply'.