When Not to Multiply a Missional Community

August 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

Multiplication is a critical piece of effectively making disciples, and foundational to a movement.  This series of posts will explore different different questions about multiplying a missional community:

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When NOT to Multiply a Missional Community?

In the last post, I pointed out when you should multiply a missional community.  This time around, I want to do the opposite of that – when you shouldn’t.  If you cast a vision for multiplication and value it, often times people and communities will want to multiply but they probably shouldn’t do it.  Below are a few common times when that may be the case.

Don’t multiply because the group is too big

Space restrictions are the most common reasons that we come across for groups who have a desire to multiply.  The group either can’t fit in a living room together, or there is an “ideal” group size that they have exceeded.  There are a couple problems with this thinking. First, the group is often large because something is going right – the leader is doing an effective job, there is a strong group of hospitable people, or providentially there was a pocket of people who needed connection.  Often times what will happen if you multiply a community like this is a new smaller community will begin that begins strong, but ultimately fizzles and dies.  Meanwhile the original group will often just grow right back, which continues the original problem.

Rather than multiplying just to alleviate a problem, I would encourage a leader to cast vision for new opportunity, and work on finding a leader.  The critical point to successful multiplication is avoiding convenience and multiplying for mission or a leader.

Don’t multiply if your group is unhealthy

Some groups may have a desire to multiply, but are very unhealthy.  This is another reason that we value assessment – it gives us an opportunity to understand if a group has good DNA and could successfully multiply into a few more healthy missional communities.  In our experience, unhealthy groups just multiply unhealthy groups.  Before you multiply, do some soul searching and see if your missional community is faithfully committed to practices, values and ultimately the gospel.

Don’t multiply without a clear sense of mission for a new community

This is probably a derivative of the first point in this post, but I would strongly suggest you not multiply without a clear vision for the lost.  This kind of multiplication is often driven around the needs of the community members. We need to multiply because I can’t meet X night.  We need to multiply because I don’t “click” with so-and-so.  Whatever the reason, this is more like division than multiplication, and in my experience results in more missional communities dying than any other.  It often reveals a consumeristic heart – the response is not to multiply, but to patiently address consumerism with the gospel over time.

Don’t multiply because someone just told you to

This fall, we will be generally asking all of our missional communities to consider multiplication in order to keep the vision and mission fresh in front of them.  Perhaps the worst motivation to multiply is just because someone told you to.  Assess your community first and foremost – is there a good reason to multiply?  Talk to your community about the imperative to make disciples in community together, but also the necessity of the gospel continuing to move forward.  Involve your pastors or coaches, or just someone you trust who understands what you’re trying to accomplish to give you some help.

Bottom line, don’t just multiply blindly – do it intentionally and be obedient to the Spirit!

What are some other reasons that a community shouldn’t multiply?

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

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