Welcome to G3, which is short for Grab, Gather, and Grow. These three verbs are steps to help mobilize your church for tremendous growth. This system will help you achieve not only healthy numeric growth but also growth in discipleship, growth in ministry and mission activity, as well as growth in spiritual relationships. In this book and the accompanying video, you will discover a proven leadership strategy to maximize your results in connecting people in your congregation, community, and beyond through small groups.
For years we have heard prominent Christian leaders say that it is possible to see more people involved in group life during the week than in attendance in worship on the weekend. In fact, they would even go so far as to say that 100 percent participation in groups is not the goal. Instead, the goal is to see upwards of 110 percent of the weekend attendance actively involved in group life. What? Are you kidding? It preaches well at a training event, but is it really possible? Could it just be seminar rhetoric? You know what seminar rhetoric is, right? It is the things presenters tell you are possible during a training seminar, but the idea of it happening in your local setting seems unattainable. Well, if you’ve ever experienced seminar rhetoric, then you can understand our surprise when we realized that, after adopting a new strategy for group life, we did indeed have more people involved in groups some weeks than we had in worship on the weekend. (And we had good crowds on the weekend!)
Many churches are stuck in patterns that are not yielding the best results. We realized this was true in our setting several years ago, so we hired a coach, Brett Eastman from Life Together ministries, to help us move forward in the area of small group involvement. Through that consultation, we began developing a strategy that has led to tremendous growth spiritually and relationally. This is the strategy we want to share with you through this book. It’s called Grab, Gather, and Grow. Feel free to tweak this process, and make it work in your situation! As Christian leaders, our responsibility is not only to feed our sheep but also to equip them and create systems of health and growth so that they, too, can feed sheep. Ideally, these systems need little maintenance once established and can allow for years of growth in many areas. In the early church, we read in Acts:
A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved. (Acts 2:43-47 CEB)
The early church had a system! There was a system for corporate worship in the temple and a system for ministry, fellowship, study, and mission in homes. G3 is a similar system.
This is a how-to book. You already know the theology motivating it from scripture:
- Go into the whole world and make disciples . . . (Mark 16:15, paraphrased)
- Love each other . . . (John 13:34 CEB)
- Carry each other’s burdens . . . (Gal 6:2 CEB)
- A three-ply cord doesn’t easily snap . . . (Eccl 4:12 CEB)
- As iron sharpens iron, so friends sharpen each [other] . . . (Prov 27:17 CEB)
- Don’t stop meeting together with other believers . . . (Heb 10:25 CEB)
- Love your neighbor as yourself . . . (Mark 12:31 CEB)
These scriptures, and so many more, point to the need for us to be in community with each other. They stress the strength that comes from doing life together with a shared purpose. But our world, our churches, and our people are already so very busy. Within the church, we usually attend too many meetings, accomplish too little ministry, and often feel too much stress. In fact, in the bustle of life, many of the people in our churches and community find themselves desperately lonely. So what do we do? We build a system to help people connect to each other, to Christ, and into meaningful ministry. Grab, Gather, and Grow can help you do this!
In our situation, two weeks after beginning G3, we were able to assimilate more people into groups meeting in homes, businesses, and restaurants than we had in weekend worship. Even more surprising and exciting is these small groups are bearing fruit. Over the past year we have seen a 350 percent increase in the number of groups offered in our church family. This represents more than a thousand additional people now engaged with each other on a weekly basis to study God’s word, invite the lost, engage in missions, take care of each other, and worship together.
How? This result is accomplished by giving our people an easy-to-use, video-driven resource provided through our church, encouraging them to gather a few friends from the community, and having them commit to growing together in a small group setting. The video teaching on the DVD is done by a skilled communicator, which allows people who may have been previously intimidated by “teaching” to step into leadership. The gathering is done by the one who grabs the resource, and the growth occurs through the sweet process of inviting God into our lives within these group settings.
In some ways, by allowing all church members to grab a resource, the qualification bar for leadership is lowered. The average church attendee is able to step into a leadership role and reach out to his or her circle of friends and family outside the church family. This is a part of the secret sauce for G3. By equipping the people of God with high-quality materials and then encouraging them to reach out to those they know outside the church walls, we have been able to reach many more people with the love and message of Christ.
Many of our peers, with varying demographics—geography, style of worship, and size—experience similar results. For example, our friend Jeff, a pastor in Ohio, implemented a version of the G3 process with great results. Five months after introducing this strategy, his congregation moved from 180 people involved in eighteen groups to more than 500 people involved in forty-seven groups, and they are still growing.
After just two series, David, a pastor in Texas, experienced a similar outcome. His church added fifty groups. These are both relatively large churches. However, the system works in all locations and is effective with varying demographics. A smaller church trying this approach added seven groups. It sounds small in comparison until you realize this doubled their attendance. Don’t be overwhelmed by the numbers. Scale the process to your situation.
Think exponentially and not incrementally!
We are excited to share this process with you because we believe that it will work for you no matter the size or location of your congregation. And as it works, you will ultimately be able to reach more people with the love and message of Christ. In fact, as you unleash the power of encouraging everyone to reach out to those in their spheres of influence, the stories that emerge will amaze you.
With more than three hundred groups now meeting in and beyond our church community, we hear stories almost daily about what God is doing among our people. Many of these stories are about people who never attended a Bible study before. But by grabbing a resource and gathering their friends, they are now growing together in Christ.
In another example, we received a note from a participant, Tamera, who shared with us that simply by grabbing a resource and using it with friends from her work setting, she made an impact on a very unique population. Tamera works with adults who have special needs, including several who are nonverbal. After viewing a resource on love, she invited small groups of her clients into her home and did the study with them.
This group, like so many others, is one we would never have envisioned. But by loosening the constraints of who is qualified to lead and by empowering our attendees to invite, we are seeing tremendous growth both within the community and in who is being reached.
As we dig into the strategy of G3, we pray that the Holy Spirit will begin to open your eyes, as the Spirit opened our eyes and Tamera’s eyes, to all the possibilities in front of you!
Jennifer Cowart and Jim Cowart, Grab, Gather, Grow: Multiply Community Groups in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2016).