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Erroneous Thinking About Commitment

by Joel Comiskey

Summer 2014

Michael Mack (author of various books on small groups) and I have talked on several occasions about the state of small groups in North America and in the Western world in general. I’ve shared with him my concern about the lack of commitment of many small groups and small group systems in the U.S. and Western world. Michael mentioned a phrase that impacted me and that I often used. He said, “You don’t get more commitment by asking for less commitment.”

Some pastors and churches are so desirous of making small groups easy for their people and painless to attend that they call everything a small group, shut down their small groups at various times during the year, only meet occasionally, offer little equipping, and promote leaderless groups (just insert the video in the TV). But you don’t get more commitment by asking for less commitment. Such techniques will fail because the people eventually even want less commitments and requirements.

I sat with a pastoral team who asked me to assess their small group system. Their groups only met four months out of the year because they didn’t want to ask too much of their leaders, hosts, and members. Yet, their system wasn’t working. I basically told them that they had to raise the bar, make cells the base of their church, and begin to truly coach the leaders. Here was another church that figured that the small groups would be healthier by asking for less commitment, but it just doesn’t work that way.

The cell is the church and just as important as the larger gathering. Nothing should compete with it. It’s the life of the church, just like the New Testament house churches. As this higher level commitment becomes a habit and lifestyle (and in many churches this is a long-term transition process), people will joyfully meet year round–even in the summer. They will grow to love the cell community, transparent sharing, spiritual growth, prayer power, and outreach potential. They will rise to the commitment level necessary to make the cell groups the year-round choice.

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Joel