Right now our church has a Sunday evening service, as well as Sunday morning and a Wednesday evening timeslot for classes and youth. Beginning in February, we’re going to be moving our Sunday evening service to a once-a-month celebration, in order to create some time and space for some new small groups to emerge.
It begged the question: how much of an effort to we make to "lead" the new groups? Will they emerge if we simply create space? Should we name the new groups? We’ve been burned in the past by small group structures that were overly bureaucratic, and felt like people would react very strongly against anything they perceived as "top-down" control. So we’re really going to try simply making the space and seeing what happens.
I’ve heard the analogy that emerging leadership looks more like gardening than architecture (see "Kingdom Leadership in a Postmodern World", Len Hjalmarson, [PDF] p. 7), and in many ways that’s what we’re trying out for Sunday nights. We’re breaking up the soil and turning it over (creating the space and time), planting some seed (throwing out the idea that anyone can start a group), and doing our best to give the seeds good amounts of water and nutrition (carving out time to resource and train and encourage small group leaders). I guess when you’re a gardener that’s all you can do, then wait for something to emerge from the dirt.
I’m not sure how far you can carry this analogy, but it would seem to me that the hard part comes when something actually emerges from the dirt, and things like weeding and pruning become necessary for the plant to continue to grow. That’s when it will get complicated, I imagine.
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