In every church I have served, growth has been hampered by the resistance of teachers and leaders to support the time-tested strategy of multiplication — or birthing new classes with new leaders. Most teachers are scared of multiplication because they prefer instead to view it as ‘dividing’ their class. And while, yes, their class gets smaller in the short-term, each member gains a greater sense of personal responsibility and belonging. Relationships are deepened, and new leaders are mentored and released into ministry.
When I approach class leaders about multiplying their groups, I am almost invariably met with, “We don’t think that’s a good idea” — or some form of that sentiment.
The truth is that across history, if discipleship pastors or ministers of education waited until leaders were ready or comfortable or enthusiastic about multiplying their classes, then very few classes would ever be added.
Why are people so resistant to this notion? I have a several theories:
1. Group leaders tend to enjoy the comfort of big groups. Let’s face it: everybody has an ego, and big numbers tend to stroke our need to be needed.
2. Group leaders tend to fear “breaking up the family.” Classes and small groups, when done well, tend to take on the feel of a family. We share needs, prayer requests, and personal struggles. Birthing a new class from an existing class demands a ‘starting over’ of sorts for everyone.
3. Group leaders tend to be protective of their class members’ feelings. They don’t like to see people upset — or caused to feel uncomfortable. And to be honest, they relish the fact that their members feel that way so they can use that as an excuse for not multiplying.
4. Group leaders tend to think people will stop coming if classes multiply. And rather than testing it out and putting full effort into making it work, they often work behind the scenes in the most subtle of ways to sabotage potential growth.
5. Group leaders tend to misunderstand the vision for multiplication that almost inevitably results in both spiritual growth and numerical growth. And when given the opportunity to discuss possibilities, they often focus far more on why multiplication “won’t work” rather than how they can help make it work.
These are admittedly strong statements to make, but I have seen this play out time and time again. It’s really sad because in these situations, the only one who wins is Satan himself — not the class leaders, not the class members, not the staff leader, and certainly not the large numbers of unreached people who need to encounter Christ in a personal way.
One thing is certain, if ministers waited on members to be ready to promote to a new class or create new classes, there wouldn’t be much change taking place in the average Sunday School organization. Hmmm . . . maybe that’s why there’s not!
I’m praying that God will grab hold of churches all across our land and do a miraculous work that enables more people than ever before to connect with His people through Sunday School classes and small groups.
Will you join me in that prayer — even if it means being uncomfortable?