• Russ Jones


Ok, you may or may not have ever heard this about small groups. A tribe is a group of people who have some common connection with each other. It may be their age, or the fact they are married, or some other commonality. But there are rules to the tribe.

#1 - A good-sized group is around 10 - 12. I know others say more and less. But this is a good rule of thumb. If you’re going to be tackling challenging issues. No more than 10. Conversations will be excellent, and time will be limited. If there are too many people in the class who wanted to say something but never get to - they will feel slighted.

(More experienced leaders can sometimes wrangle a few more, but for the most part - but it’s still going to be complicated.)

#2 - It wants to explode at 12. Tribes get momentum to grow on their own around 12. Get 12 youth in a group, and it will grow. Same for kids, men, AA, bars, car clubs, you name it. You might be saying, “Well, that’s a good thing - right?” Not necessarily. What was the goal of the group? To grow into a church of its own? Or for people to build relationships and be ministered to correctly? After 12, the ministry will fall by the wayside.

As a good rule of thumb.

  • 2 to 12 is a small group.

  • 12 - 25 is a ministry.

  • 25+ will grow into a church.

I attended a church while on vacation recently. I asked how a church leader how the church was birthed? There were 12 or so people who met a specific night of the week in the basement of a house. Then before they knew it, 250 people were meeting in their basement.

So you need a strategy. Let’s say that you start hitting 16 or so. Now is the time to divide the group. If you are using shorter terms for the class 4 - 8 weeks, then division can happen naturally. But if this is a 52-week class, you will need to raise new leaders and divide.

#3 Take a break - often Tribes need a rest. If you don’t make them take a rest, they will burn out.

You can schedule certain months, for example, December. Too much going on there, and it is a natural time to rest your small groups. Some churches take the summer months off or offer a smaller slate of small groups. Why should you do this?

Give leaders a break. Don’t allow your small group leaders to burn out.

It helps to break groups up. If a group meets for nine months, and there is little to no growth, the chances of growing and starting a new group are slim and none. The group becomes crystallized. Take breaks and offering new groups helps to keep your small group ministry healthy.

#4 The tribe takes care of the tribe. Once relationships have been established, they will begin to take care of each other, support each other, encourage each other, and love one another. As a small group leader, do it first. Then let them watch you do it. Then encourage them to do it. Finally, give them permission to do it. (The last one is a big one)

#5 The tribe supports the TRIBE This happens more often with groups that have become too large and/or crystallized. They will rebel against the church that gave them life in the first place. Often these groups will take on a culture of their own. Sadly, usually, but not always, a negative culture that is fraught with gossip and criticism. Because the small group leader allowed it, or because the group is so big they couldn’t address it, rebellion is birthed, and a complex problem will need to be solved.

The leader has to understand that they are responsible for building a positive culture that supports the church (the TRIBE) and its leadership. Even more importantly, they need to make sure the small group sees everyone else in the church through the eyes of Christ. With Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness

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