When it went wrong….and what we learnt: Multiplication
Imagine the scenario: You have a thriving growing group which you seek to multiply and end up killing the group. Oops. This is a story from when I was working with student missional communities.
We had a thriving group of students, growing in size and seeing their friends become disciples. So the logical next step was to seek to multiply the group. We got out large sheets of paper, listed all the names and came up with what looked like two great groups. We spent time and effort communicating the multiplication, explaining that they would still meet together sometimes and sent them off hoping to see the growth we had seen multiplied.
But it was not to be. One of the groups struggled from the outset, the leaders lost confidence, some wished they were in the other half of the multiplication. Each time they met it was hard work and had lost the fun factor. And eventually we decided the best way forward was to acknowledge that it wasn’t working and say farewell to the two groups and join the two back together.
As we processed this failure we began to notice that we had put our time and effort in the wrong place. We had invested our resources in trying to multiply the missional community and it had felt forced, un-natural and plain hard work. Multiplication from a top-down approach can actually destroy the very life that is causing communities to flourish. We needed a new approach.
What if we changed what we put our resources into? Attempting to multiply groups wasn’t working, but we didn’t want to give up on multiplication. We had seen groups grow initally and then get stuck at a nice social size.
What if we instead put our efforts into multiplying leaders? And so since then that is how I’ve tried to approach multiplication. The challenge for me is that I have to give up quite a lot of control. Control over what groups there are, and even how and when they multiply. I have begun to see that putting my resources into multiplying leaders results brings growth, but that I have much less control over this growth.
How about you? What’s your strategy for multiplication? What resources are you investing and how can you use these to invest in leaders? Are you willing to trust these leaders even when it means giving up control of what they go on to lead?
Jenny Irvine, together with her husband Gareth and young daughter Jessica, lead a fairly new missional community base called Saint Aidan’s in the north of the city of Coventry. They’ve taken a small team of young adults with them, to live as in incarnational community focused around prayer and mission. They are currently involved in Kidz Klub which works with children from challenging housing estates, and visit about 30 families each week on the estate where they live.
For more help on how to successfully multiply a missional community read this post from 2012.