Book Review: Go Big With Small Groups
The introduction of Bill Easum's and John Atkinson's Go Big With Small Groups ends with this exhortation: "Our book is meant to be a guide, not a model. Don't copy us. Develop a process that will work in your setting." That makes me happy. I love learning from churches who know that their model won't necessarily work in every setting. So the reading began well.
This book starts by encouraging small group ministry leaders to ask the hard questions and begin with the end in mind. It is extremely practical, giving details about their own systems and structures at Bay Area Fellowship and offering step-by-step guidance for managing small group system, multiplying groups, finding and training leaders, and recruiting members for groups. It is written by practitioners, and that is abundantly clear. You don't get this kind of raw, honest, and practical information from theorists. The chapters are tight, concise, and full of helpful ideas.
Our small group structure at National Community Church is similar in some ways and very different in other ways from the structure at Bay Area Fellowship. But this book challenged some of my assumptions and stretched me to thinking in new ways. I picked out of it a couple of practical ideas about changing the way we do training for groups and recruitment for groups.
I was a little disappointed in their negativity towards singles groups and their encouragement to not provide childcare. I know they are writing from a place of their own experience, but perhaps they could have they could have tempered these statements by pointing to other churches who have taken a different approach and been successful. The only other critique of the book relates to the changing tone and style. I'm sure that comes from the dual authorship, but it was a bit confusing as the text sometimes swung wildly between sarcasm, hyperbole, and solid information.
I recommend this book to churches that are starting or re-engineering their small group ministries. Don't copy their model, but learn from it. I also recommend it to small group pastors who want to remain an open system and learn from other churches.