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Greenhouse Small Groups

At Big Creek church our small groups are called LIFE groups. I appreciate David Rudd's analogy here on how LIFE groups are to grow. Comparing it more to a greenhouse as opposed to a garage or a meadow. I will let David expand on this analogy more. Here is his post over at Creative Community:

LIFE groups can be best described through the metaphor of the greenhouse. However, to understand the greenhouse, you must first take a moment to consider the garage and the meadow.

Imagine a typical garage. Likely it is a highly organized place. Most garages have shelves, cabinets, and other storage areas. A garage is a place where a lot of different things can happen because it is well organized. In addition to housing cars, most garages also serve as work spaces. Often they are a place for auto repairs or woodworking. A properly functioning garage provides plenty of space to efficiently accomplish several tasks.

Most garages look the same. They typically have a square or rectangular shape, concrete floors, unfinished walls, and a large door. Because they are designed to be functional, not artistic, little variety exists from garage to garage.

Garages are a place to accomplish tasks, not to grow things. If something is growing in your garage, you likely have a problem.

Now imagine a meadow. Nothing in a meadow is organized. This lack of control allows anything and everything to grow in a meadow. Meadows are completely random and completely disorganized. A meadow is not a place where tasks are accomplished. A meadow is a place you go when you have nothing to do.

Meadows are inviting places because of the incredible variety of growing plants. Even weeds contribute to the appeal of a meadow. The lack of organization and efficiency in the meadow help contribute to the wide variety of growth. The primary thing that happens in a meadow is growth. No systems exist, there are no processes; just wild, uncontrolled growth.

Small group programs at many churches resemble garages. Some small group programs resemble meadows.

"Garage Churches" organize their small groups from the top-down. Most decisions are made by staff. A great deal of what happens in groups and ministries happens via dictation. Systems and policies are put in place to ensure high efficiency. Usually, every group follows the same specific plan. The church developes a pattern, and every group is expected to squeeze into the pattern. Little or not room exists for creativity. Typically, organizational productivity takes precedent over personal growth. Victories are usually measured by accomplishment of the church goals and increased attendance or giving, rather than by personal life change.

"Meadow Churches" allow everyone to do what is right in their own eyes. Most decisions are made by individuals with little or no consideration as to how they might impact others. No one makes an effort to give direction or oversee any groups or ministries. No "big picture" plans or goals exist. Different groups regularly engage in "turf wars" because no one has a shared vision for the direction of the church. Every group makes their own plan. Each group is given the freedom to evaluate itself, make plans, and study material which is effective for the current needs of the group. Personal growth is given precedent over organizational productivity. The larger goals of the group take backseat to the growth and development of each person and group. Numbers and statistics are not nearly as important as personal and group stories.

Both the garage church and the meadow church have aspects that are desirable. However, both models also have clear weaknesses. We are trying to develop a ministry model at Calvary that builds on the strengths of both models and minimizes the weaknesses of each model. We call this hybrid the "greenhouse" model. Our primary objective is to "provide the minimum structure necessary to allow for maximum growth."


(ht: David Rudd)


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