Liberty Theological Seminary
4-MAT Book Review One
The Pocket Guide To Leading A Small Group
by Dave Earley and Rod Dempesey
Submitted to Dr. Quigly Nudge
In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements for the Course
Small Group Ministries
April 8, 2011
Moving from the theoretical to the practical can sometimes be the most daunting challenge facing a leader and facilitator of a small group. It is true enough that within the church context that Small Groups are not necessarily a new idea, that once was on the cutting edge of Christian discipleship, but it still remains a paradigm that the traditional church sometimes struggle to venture into, which is exactly the reason that Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey have offered this practical “How to” guide to envisioning, facilitating, and sustaining a successful small group. Earley and Dempsey posit 52 key concepts in achieving a successful small group; though there are many chapters the concepts are very manageable to read, review, and discern (most chapters are only a few pages in length). Many of the core ideas run along the theme of maturity and multiplication, which include analogies that run along that same line of thinking (e.g., Chapter 35 ‘You Can’t Have Babies If You Don’t Get Pregnant’). Most of what is written is from the standpoint of encouragement and edification—there is an optimistic tone from start to finish. One of the most important aspects that the authors focus upon is the explicit biblical citing of small group ministry within the life of Jesus, specifically found in chapter 2, the writers point out that, “Those who would be a disciple of Jesus must practice the disciplines of Jesus.” It is here that the authors express clear vivid examples from the Gospels whereby Jesus takes a small band of disciples to mentor, instruct, serve as example, and to the unleash them to ministry (cf., Matthew 28:19-20). Earley and Dempsey also spend a great deal of time building upon the need for imagination, creativity, leader-focused training, and group building—the book doesn’t flow as a hodge-podge of ideas, but they are more like a link the chain, which if linked together through time and forged through patience, will ultimately prove to be successful. However, methodology doesn’t come at the expense of a familial closeness with God, rather, it is sought to be expanded upon through the small group ministry. Worship is ultimately the goal of the small group ministry model, but that, according to the authors, not only takes a biblical focus, but also the need for leaders to be raised up. Leadership is one of the main characteristics of the book by-and-large, its essence is throughout—but it is also explicit in no less than eleven chapters; the obvious goal is to help leaders lead in an area that many are unaccustomed or unfamiliar with. Earley and Dempsey not only take time to clarify the leadership structure within the small group (Chapter 13), but they additionally provide helpful “How To” suggestions when it came to facilitating the groups themselves (i.e., Q&A, Hospitality, etc.,), which are covered in Chapter 23 & 26. The latter part of the book deals with practical aspect, intricacy, and nuances that can positively or negatively affect the progression and longevity of successful small group ministry, issues like: a lack of leaders (Chapter 43), a vision for leaders (Chapter 47), and the very real possibility of burnout (Chapters 45 & 52 respectively). Against such threats to the ministry the authors say to consider a litany of pastoral advice (e.g., Being Grateful, Keeping It Real, etc.,), but is highlighted in their words about eternity that say: “Eternity is a very long time. As you serve the Lord as a small group leader, you are making investments that will last forever. Therefore, don't give up! One day, it will be worth it all when you see how you have...
Early, Dave and Rod Dempsey. The Pocket Guide To Leading A Small Group: 52 Ways To Help You And Your Small Group Grow. Houston, TX: Touch, 2007.
Gilbert, Greg. What Is The Gospel? Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010.
Stetzer, Ed and Mike Dodson. Come Back Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around And How Yours Can Too. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2007.
Barna Group 2010. Six Megathemes Emerge from Barna Group Research 2010. Accessed January 27, 2012 from: http://www.barna.org/culture-articles/462-six-megathemes-emerge-from-2010?q=2010
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