Monday, July 7, 2008

Review - Activate: Entirely New Approach to Small Groups

Outstanding Practical Book on Small Groups Ministry

Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas have written an outstanding book on starting or developing a small groups ministry within the local church entitled "Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups". The material presented demonstrates a depth of insight that only comes from experience – it’s easy to see how Journey Church in New York City went from a handful of people to over 1100 in worship attendance and over 1200 people in almost 100 small groups in just a few years. The book is easy to read, very well organized, very practical, yet gives the important ‘why’ behind each of the main ideas presented. (I would characterize his other book ‘Fusion’ in the same way.) The material is covered in several sections within two parts: the Activate Mindset, and the Activate System. The first half talks about several novel principles and shares some solid insight in sidebars and examples. The second half is really nuts-and-bolts on how to apply this approach not just as a set of disconnected ideas, but as a complete system that can be put in place. It doesn’t tell the reader what needs to be covered or try to set an agenda for the groups, so there is still a lot of freedom for application and customization of the system to best match the needs of the church.

Part One: The Activate Mindset
* Rethinking Small Group Methodology
- Think Inside Out… Not Outside In
- Think Larger… Not Smaller
- Think Friendship… Not Intimacy
* Rethinking Small Group Structure
- Think Short-Term… Not Long-Term
- Think Promotion Months… Not Ongoing Sign-ups
- Think Church of small groups… Not with small groups
* Rethinking Small Group Strategy
- Think Easy… Not Hard
- Think Ahead… Not Behind
- Think Full Staff Participation… Not Staff Specialist
* Rethinking Small-Group Leadership
- Think Apprentice… Not Expert
- Think Decentralization… Not Staff Control
- Think Leader Multiplication… Not Group Multiplication

Part Two: The Activate System
* Focusing Your Groups (with 5 Focus steps)
* Forming Your Groups (with 3 Forming steps)
* Filling Your Groups (with 11 Fill factors)
* Facilitating Your Groups (with 5 Principles)

Some may be put off by the subtitle ‘An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups’. That type of marketing line seems to be best left for readers and reviewers to decide, but the material in the book is not as self-promotional as the title. I had previously read several books by Donahue and others stressing being a Church of Small Groups (not with). What I particularly liked about Activate was that several foundational principles were in common with these other books, while several aspects of the approach were quite different – and Searcy and Thomas discuss the reasons why. (For example, the approach to sign-ups and promotion is different in the Activate system, but with a good rationale.)

I would strongly recommend that pastors and/or those responsible for starting or growing a small groups ministry read ‘Activate’ in addition to the excellent books from other successful practitioners in small group ministry (e.g. Bill Donahue and Andy Stanley).

(After enjoying Fusion and now Activate, I think I should probably look into another resource by Searcy, Breaking the 500 Growth Barrier - an issue our church is currently facing)

1 comment:

Nelson said...

Thanks for the shout out to Activate! I;m glad you are finding the book helpful. We just posted a ton of free stuff related to the book at:

God bless you and thanks for the post!

Nelson Searcy
Co-Author: Activate - An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups
Lead Pastor, The Journey, NYC

P.S. I'm now blogging at