Doug Walker passed along a book for me to check out and I thought that is was pretty helpful. So, I thought I would briefly review it here. The book is entitled Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups. The authors Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas are pastors at the Journey Church in New York City. They consider themselves to be a “Church of Small Groups”. It is in this context that they have seen their church grow exponentially and powerfully.

Basically, the content of the book is simple and straightforward. They give a an overview of the subject in Part One. Here they take about 70 pages to give you a fly-over of their small group system. In Part Two, Searcy and Tomas, then breakdown the system specifically and discuss how to implement the system in your church. They also provide an in depth calendar and very specific how-to’s.

The text is an easy read and did not take very long to work through. So, if you are looking for something quick that will also challenge and provide you a structure for you to consider regarding small groups this is a worthwhile read.

So, what’s the evaluation? Most of what is written is pretty standard small group stuff. However, there were two issues that have stuck in my mind that I think are worthy to throw out here. First, Searcy and Thomas use a semester-based structure. Their groups are only committed to be with one another for 10–12 weeks. They argue that this model follows the best educational/growth model that we know of. That is, the necessity of stress and release. This was interesting to me because it really flies in the face of conventional thinking about small groups. Most would say that a good small group requires a minimum of a one year commitment. This has been pretty challenging to consider the ramifications of this length of time. I am not sure what I think about this. I am still chewing on it.

Second, they unequivocally state that “intimacy” is a myth about small groups and as a result has caused the church to think in such a way that makes the implementation of small groups very difficult and sets them up for failure. “Intimacy” is something that is very difficult to create, if not impossible. When we look at small groups and tell people that they will have “intimacy” if they join a group this will almost always fail. They want people to focus on friendship. The idea that a small group provides a place for friendship which, with some in the group, might lead to intimacy. This change in direction is something I whole-heartedly agree with. The intimacy fallacy is one that has plagued ministries for so long. If we would just lower the relational expectation a bit then we will find greater success and at the end of the day the intimacy we long for.

I am not sure on one of their key platform items. I really embrace another. Time to go back and chew on this a bit more. I would encourage you to grab the book and think through some of these issues.

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