Before discussing some practical concepts of Intentionally Branching, I’d like to briefly discuss the importance of a church being unified in the language they use in making disciples. For instance, notice the word branch. Merriam-Webster defines branch as “to put forth secondary shoots or stems: to put forth branches.” Branching describes movement, growth, maturity, and life. You can just envision the imagery of John 15 with Jesus reminding His disciples that He was the True Vine and that they were His branches. They could do nothing apart from their intimate relationship with Him.
Has a small group leader ever asked you how they should split or divide their group? While technically these words carry similar meaning, the visual descriptions are anything but pleasant. When I split something, it connotes something harmful. Divide carries a feel of the word divisive. We want our small groups to branch, a by-product of a healthy organism.
Cast Vision Continually.
People need a consistent and steady reminder of the vision of your small group. Two years before attending my first Discipleshift1 Training in 2013, I had started small groups in addition to our Sunday School classes. But quite honestly, these small groups were just a smaller form of dysfunction. I had assumed that something magical would happen when 10 people would gather together in a small group as opposed to 30 people meeting in a class. I had not instilled in those first small group leaders the vision, purpose, and mission of our groups. Therefore, I would highly encourage every small group to have a brief moment of vision casting every time they meet.
For example, we gave the title Grow Groups to our intentional, relational, and reproducible small groups. In every group, I would share something like, “We are a Grow Group. We are here to grow in our relationship with God, grow in our relationship with each other, and we are here to grow numerically. Todd and Angela are not here tonight because they are leading a Grow Group in their home. Chris and April are not here tonight because they are leading a Grow Group in their home. Now don’t laugh at this, but a year from now, you may be leading a Grow Group in your home for the purpose of reaching people in your neighborhood who need to be discipled.” If you approach a leader about branching and have never previously cast vision for branching in your group, be prepared to see some blank stares and face resistance.
I have always found it helpful to launch a group with at least an individual or couple serving in the Facilitator, Co-Facilitator, and Observer role (depending on whether your group is designed for men, women, or couples). Launching a Facilitator couple with two other couples will ensure a healthy group size just in case the group doesn’t experience immediate growth.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
After you have identified and equipped leaders ready to start their own small group, you’ll want to discuss who will stay with the current group and which leaders will launch the new one. If the majority of the people will stay with the existing group, the elder leader may want to be part of the new launch ensuring the newest small group leader has plenty of support and participation. If you are facilitating as a couple, make sure you branch with at least one other couple with which you have a strong relationship. The birth of a new group is not the ideal time to really get to know the other couple in leadership.
Set The Stage.
As your small group continues to grow, and it becomes evident that a branch will soon become necessary, start casting vision to the group concerning the leaders who will stay with the current group and the leaders that will launch the new group. Communicate this information with your group every week and encourage the members to prayerfully consider with which group they should partner.
Set A Launch Date.
With leaders and members in place for both groups, it’s time to set a launch date. Before this happens, and if the setting allows for it, the two groups could meet separately in the same home so that they get a feel of what the new group experience will be like. If possible, plan the launch when newcomers might likely visit a group for the first time (i.e. January, after Easter, September, etc.). Celebrate the branch from the pulpit during the Sunday morning worship service. You could even have a time of “commissioning” these new leaders who are launching new groups to reach more people with the gospel.
Bathe the entire branching process in prayer. Ask the Lord to help you identify leaders. Ask God to place a vision for leadership and disciple making on the hearts of those you are discipling. Ask the Lord to give you patience in the process, wisdom at every turn, and strength for every step you take.
Next Steps & Connections
Relational Discipleship Network