Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Book 34: Creating Community: 5 Keys to Building a Small Group Culture by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits

Creating Community: 5 Keys to Building a Small Group Culture by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits


How it was obtained:
I was given this book before I started leading a small group at a church in Columbia, SC. Obviously I didn't read it when I was supposed to read it.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf:
4 years.

Days spent reading it:
2 months.

Why I read it:
I was supposed to read it before I helped lead a small group. I felt bad about never having read it, so I added it to this list and completed my assignment years after it was originally given.

Brief review:
This book is a Northpoint Church resource that talks about how they created a small group environment at their church. I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I recognize how important community is in spiritual development. So I think there are a few helpful pointers in this book about how that is accomplished.

But for the most part, this book really rehashes old business models and applies them to small groups. For instance one point of the book is "Clarify the win." Make sure you know what your end goal is. Gee, that sounds like Business class 101 to me. We need to know our goal to get there. I get it. Another section was about having reasonable criteria for small group leaders. Have quality leaders, but don't expect them to be perfect. Done.

In another section of the book they talk about how they want to see their small groups multiplying. SO every 1.5 years the group splits, but also grows. The chart goes:

Year/# of people
etc. etc.

However they never explain how these groups magically grow (especially considering they are CLOSED groups). It was like they were saying:

Step 1. Start small group.
Step 2. Double in size in a year and a half.
Step 3. Start new small group.

It reminds me of the only episode I ever saw of Southpark with these underwear gnomes whose motto was: Phase 1--Steal underwear. Phase 2-- Phase 3--Profit!

How do you do that? How do you double the small group size? I realize a church like Northpoint has new people coming and going all the time. But the old "if you build it they will come" mentality does not work for small groups in most churches, making this point practically worthless for those churches.

And one more personal pet peeve. Andy Stanley's name is prominently on the front cover, but I would be shocked if he wrote anything besides the introduction that is about 5 pages long. If you write a book, put your name on the cover. If you write the intro you're not the author! You're the "With intro written by" guy. His name is on the cover because it is his church and it will help sell this book. That's annoying to me. We might as well grab John Grisham, make him write an intro and put his name on the front cover of any book we want to sell. Why not? Ok, enough ranting.

So I did enjoy some of what is in this book. The opening chapters deal a lot with why people need a community they can fit into. There is a profound need in the human soul that needs community, and I think this book explores that need well. It gives us a glimpse of a biblical theology for small groups.

There are a number of small points that are applicable to anyone working on developing or strengthening their small groups. But this is not a book about how to start, grow, and develop your small groups. It is a big picture book that is not particularly practical for smaller churches, in my opinion. Not that the ideas are bad or wrong, they just are not for general application. I was hoping for something more and simply did not get it. Good thing this book was reasonably short.

Favorite quote:
Disconnected people tend to be more selfish. Isolation breeds selfishness.

2 out of 5

Final Word:


Rob said...

I liked the quote. Thanks for the review. By the way, I read an Andy Stanley book (forget the title) and it also had "clarify the win." It was one of the chapters. Possibly these are some of his basic thoughts that they just keep repeating to their new leaders. Not contradicting your "ghost writer" theory, but just wondering about this other possibility. By the way, sounds like it was a good thing you didn't spend a sleepless night in Columbia feverishly reading the book before you started leading the small group.

Patrick said...

Rob, I have no doubt that Andy Stanley influenced this book. It might even be laying down the principles he specifically developed. I'm just saying that I would be surprised if he actually wrote a sentence besides the introduction.