There are, in every industry, certain books that serve as cornerstones – manuals of the trade, if you will. If you want to fix a car, you buy a Chilton’s Guide. If you’re working in any psychology-related field, you need a DSM-IV manual. And if you’re in small group ministry, ministry leadership, or you simply want your own small group to thrive, you need to have the new industry standard manual, Small Groups with Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities.
Steve Gladen, Pastor of Small Groups and Spiritual Maturity at Saddleback Church since 1998, has just released the very book I’ve been hoping for. He addresses the biblical foundations of community, group life, discipleship, and how small groups relate to the larger church context. According to Gladen, “A healthy small group is a community of people who challenge each other to become all that God destined them to become.” That is certainly the goal, but as Steve points out, “unless you know what the target is, you can’t hit it.”
But this book doesn’t stop with the foundation, Steve continues onward to help any church leader build an entire small group ministry. He presents the spiritual growth assessment tools and paradigm graphics that have shaped Saddleback’s small group ministry to number well over 4,500 groups and 30,000 people. He covers the five purposes and demonstrates how each can be woven into the fabric of small group life.
Good books answer good questions, anticipating the needs of the reader in advance. Steve devotes the latter part of his book to doing just that. Should you use Sunday School or small groups? How can you recruit more group hosts? What do you do with kids? How do you practice the purpose of worship in the setting of a small group? These are the kinds of questions I’ve asked repeatedly and answers are sometimes tough to find. Steve Gladen provides them and answers many more pertinent questions as well.
Small Groups with Purpose is written by the industry’s thought leader on the subject, but it’s written for leaders at every level. I would put in at the top of my list of “must have” resources for beginning group leaders, Pastors, and everyone in between who is or hopes to be involved in small group ministry. Now that it’s on the market, it’s indispensable. Get it. Read it. Mark it up, and apply it so that you can begin creating healthy communities today!