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Monday, June 4, 2012

"Leading Life-Changing Small Groups" 3rd ed. (Bill Donahue)

TITLE: Leading Life-Changing Small Groups-paperback
AUTHOR: Bill Donahue
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, 3rd edition (208 pages).

This best selling small group guidebook is now in its third edition. Filled with great ideas and teachings about small group leadership, it is not only a resource for teaching, it is a practical ready to use tool for growing the small group ministry. Written to be used intuitively, with ready answers to anticipate reader questions, this book shines in terms of clarity, comprehensiveness, and creativity.

Chapter One sets out some biblical principles, with the conviction that beliefs precede actions. The essence of growth is relationships through community living. This is where small groups shine. Being a disciple means learning how to live and grow together. This leads to the group developing a group mission, meeting, and practice.

Chapter Two looks at the area of leadership. It provides four biblical principles of leadership that are, Christ centered, servant-led, shepherd-style, and cooperative leadership. The author talks in depth about the qualities of leadership and the selection process. It is also practical in which leaders are encouraged to cultivate active listening, learning, loving, leading people, and leaning upon the support of a leadership community. There is also a wonderful segment on spiritual practices for leaders which I feel is critical for leaders to adopt.

Chapter Three stresses the need for leaders to develop new leaders. This can be done by sharing the leadership role, through cultivating values.

Chapter Four reminds us about the purpose of small groups: Growth greenhouse style and not factory style. This is done using three essentials, namely the process of living, the basic structures like ground rules and behaviour expectations, and a strategy for growth. Of particular help is the framework for identifying the stage any group is in. If there are in the "forming stage," people need time to get to know one another. In the "norming stage," ground rules and expectations can be established. In the "storming stage," differences of opinions need to be appropriately handled. This part frequently determines how a group learns to live together. In the "performing stage," groups learn to look beyond themselves to grow other groups or to reach out to other communities.

Chapter Five touches on the actual small group meetings, the skills needed, and a guide to structure a good group meeting. It brings together four desired outcomes:

  • HEAD: "What do I want the group members to learn?"
  • HEART: "What I hope to help members experience?"
  • HANDS: "What can members do together or individually?"
  • HOMEWORK: "What assignments are needed in between meetings?"

Chapter Six measures the health and progress of the group. It is a good chapter to check how well the group is doing. Using feedback, qualitative and quantitative measurements, readers are invited to ask what works and what does not work. At the same time, the search for reasons will enable greater understanding of the dynamics in each group.

Chapter 7 shows how leaders can care for members.  The primary vehicle is through encouragement and support.

Chapter 8 deals with mission and outreach. It even contains four ways to launch new groups.

My Thoughts

I love this book. Not only is it very practical, it is highly readable. The practical tips and advice are easily worth the price of the book. Whether you are a leader, an apprentice, or just a participant, this book promises not only to give a sense of purpose and direction to any group, it energizes one to cultivate care and growth within the group as well as outreach beyond the group. Kudos again to Zondervan for coming up with this excellent resource. A must have for anyone leading or concerned about small groups in their various faith communities.

I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Zondervan and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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