Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Book Review: Small Group Outreach

In Walking the Small Group Tightrope, Russ Robinson and Bill Donahue identify various "tensions" faced in small group ministry. One of those tensions is "task" vs. "people." Another way to define that tension is "inward-focused groups" (those groups that are primarily concerned with the growth and care of its members; most traditional small groups fall into this category) and "outward focused groups" (those groups that are primarily concerned with caring for someone or something outside their own circle; ministry teams and outreach groups typically fall into this category).

But both groups grow best when they stretch towards the opposite direction. In other words, ministry teams work better when there is an element of community life present in the team. And small groups grow best when they are serving something outside of themselves.

Jeffrey Arnold's Small Group Outreach: Turning Groups Inside Out is a great primer on fostering an attitude of service and incorporating service projects into traditional small groups. The topics range from evangelistic outreach to serving the church and community to involvement in missions. Each chapter begins with a real life story to illustrate how a group can make a difference in a particular area of outreach. Then, Arnold gives very practical and tangible advice for incorporating that type of service within the fabric of an existing group.

Each chapter includes lists of ideas and tips on how to approach them as a group. Some chapters include additional materials or resources that could be helpful in exploring those aspects of outreach. A small group guide is included in the back of the book for groups that wish to dig deeper into the topic.

One of the things I love about this book is that it demonstrates how service and outreach can grow organically within existing communities in the church. Instead of creating a new outreach program, the outreach can occur naturally through groups that are already formed.

My only beef with the book is that it is rather dated and it is targeted to traditional cell group or meta group models. However, the principles and ideas are easily transferrable regardless of what type of group/discipleship structures you have.

I want our small groups to be alive and healthy, and a healthy group is one that is giving out. In the fall, I will begin a new leadership series for our small group leaders on Service, and we will be encouraging our leaders to incorporate a service element into their group life. Small Group Outreach was extremely helpful as I thought through topics for that series and it will continue to be a valuable resource as we think practically and creatively about turning our small groups inside out.


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