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Mega Church looks to Small Groups

Andy Stanley is Betting the Farm on Doubling Groups

Before Northpoint Church ever started, Andy started a group in his home. He met with a handful of other couples to encourage one another, study the Bible together, pray and fellowship. This accidental community group became the model for their exploding group ministry that exists today in every facet of their ministry.

Here are a few quotes from their web site and from some Northpoint small group training CDs that emphasize this passion for doubling groups:

“We believe the small group is the best place for sustained life-change to occur. In a small group, people study God’s Word together and are in a safe enough environment to discuss the issues and challenges of life. It’s also where they pray, care for one another, and are missed if they don’t show up.”

“Success at Northpoint is defined by how effectively our ministries move people from our large environments into small groups.”

“I believe I will have more kingdom impact with the 10 people that meet in my home on Monday night than I will with the thousands whom I preach before on Sundays.” -Andy Stanley

Andy has set the goal of having 100,000 people in community groups by the year 2010.


Hmmmmm….wonder what would happen if any or many of these “small groups” eventually declared their independence of Stanley’s mega-church, North Point Community Church, and decided that their fund$ and time would be better spent elsewhere. That they could have more accountability and more ministry without formal ties to the mother ship, so to speak.

I wonder what precautionary measures are in place to keep such a thing from occuring. Any ideas?

Wondering as I wander…

6 Responses to “Mega Church looks to Small Groups”

  1. Zane,

    Thanks for the comment on my ministry blog for Reality… I wonder how it is that you found our site. Also, thanks for this post on Andy Stanley. I’m reading a book from NorthPoint on their small group strategy. The link in this article was a cool addition to my reading. Thanks!

  2. Thomas says:

    I attend NP and have been involved in small groups there for about 4 years. There are no needs for taking precautionary measures. We have a couple in our group that doesn’t attend the church. I feel it would be encourages to bring people in from outside NP to become involved. It’s not about the mothership, it is about Christian’s growing in their walk with God through sharing life with like-minded people.

  3. In the story you referenced… there is an audio clip.. In it, Andy Stanley says… Where would 100,000 people in small groups go to church? I don’t know and I don’t care.

    I don’t think it isn’t that he “doesn’t care” I think he’s just not concerned if they come to “HIS CHURCH.” That is an awesome statement.

    I’ve been listening to Andy Stanley for some time and I believe he is geniunie in this….

    Zane…. How di you hear about my site?


  4. Hi Cliff, I found your excellent site via Google as I did a key word search several weeks ago. Apparently they are indexing your material just as one would suppose.

    Thank you so much for calling to my attention to the statement above as it is indeed significant! Think of where the church would be if there was an army of preachers who were not competing with each other and for the sheep. Wow!

    Surely Andy has a manual of some sort or guidelines for the home groups. Do you know where it might be accessed? Do you know of any other preachers on the national scene who have made similar statements? I ask, because Stanley’s view of the cell church model greatly differs from the norm.

    Here are a couple of pages which should give one the idea of of where Ralph Neighbour, the father of the cell church movement, wants to take the church and what HE considers the norm. Thankfully others, such as Andy, do not follow.

    It should go without saying, but unfortunately it cannot here, that my brief blog entry is not an attack upon Andy Stanley or Ralph Neighbour nor their followers. There are worthwhile things in Neighbour’s book and ministry, too. Major ditto for Andy Stanley. House churchers acknowledge an affinity with most aspects of “cell life” or “small group life.”


    Scrutiny of cell churches reveals they usually grow quite large before investing in a Celebration Center. It’s inevitable that one will be needed. Nearly all of them I have visited can’t find an auditorium in the city which will hold all the members. However, by the time they do build or buy a place, they are large enough that the payment is usually made in cash.

    When And Where Are The Offerings Taken?

    This varies widely among the cell churches. Personally, I like Dr. Cho’s plan. Each cell group member is given envelopes for the offering. The amount inside is marked on the envelope. They are turned in during the cell meeting. After being totaled by two persons, the separate envelopes are placed in a larger one. This envelope is then brought by the Cell Leader to the next worship service attended. Under the main auditorium there is a wall with pigeonhole boxes, where these envelopes are dropped. I have been deeply moved as I have watched one Cell Leader after another approach their pigeonhole in the wall, put the envelope to their heart and passionately pray for its use, and then drop it in a slot.

    In addition, offerings are taken at every public service, held. On one occasion I got in the way of the ushers after they had collected the offering from 25,000 people in the auditorium. They were using containers on wheels to roll the gifts into the counting room! Churches like this one seldom make special appeals for funds. When you have nearly 600,000 people serving as servants, there is no need to beg!

    What Does The Budget Of A Cell Church Look Like?

    In order to explain this, let’s look at an illustration of how the funds must be utilized. First and foremost, the investment must be in staff workers. There must be one paid Zone Pastor for every 250 people, representing approximately 25 cells and five divisions of cells conducted by volunteer Zone Shepherds. Their gifts must also provide for secretaries, office space, rental of Celebration facilities, the music staff, etc.

    (Here is the amazing nine-fold arrangement or ranking and the ratio to the next sub-category.)

    Senior Pastor
    Minister of Cell Groups
    District Leaders – 1:25 District Pastors
    District Pastors – 1:25 Zone Servants
    Zone Servants Interns
    Shepherd – 1:15 maximum
    Shepherd Group Intern
    Share Group Team – 3 people minimum


    This is a model of a cell church with a Senior Pastor. Some cell churches use a team approach with a Leadership Staff, but there is always a key man who can be identified as the leader. Staff positions appearing in the shaded areas are paid positions. All others are volunteers. The number of people supervised is given as a ratio figure.

    From the book: Where Do We Go from Here?

  5. Zane,

    Glad you found my site… my personal blog is I’m a cell group fan myself. I have Nieghbour’s book(s) on my bookshelf here next to my desk. I think it has some good insights. However, the points you have quoted above are so full of “personal opinion” rather than biblical insight, that I don’t even remember reading the collection of offereing and I only remember the concept of the structure as one possible concept.

    Joel Comiskey is by far the best author when it comes to the cell church. He has said time and time again.. you can’t just copy someone’s modle of a cell church.. You can’t take another churches structure and expect it to work in your situation.

    The important things are the VALUES AND PRINCIPLES that make these churche’s successful. I see no “value” or “principle” or “spiritual truth” in having cell leaders put envelopes of people’s money with the “$ Amount” written on the “Outside” into a little hole. So when I read that part in the book… I just skimmed right on past it…

    What I’m interested in are three things….

    I’m interested in Leading people into a deeper more intimate relationship with Christ.

    I’m interested in encouraging peole to live in deeper community with other believers, where people can be themselves, transparent, held accountable… (Life Transforming Relationships!!!)

    I’m interested in people becoming more and more of an INFLUENCE for Christ in the lives of the unsaved people around them.

    These are the three places that I feel people should be growing…. This coveres the Greatest and the 2nd Greatest commandsments upon which the etire word of God and the Prophets are hung upon, according to Jesus…. “Love God with All Your Heart…. And love your neighbour as yourself.”

    Yes, I think there should be some strategy and a model to carry out these three values and principles…. But when we focus on these three goals rather than the buildings we do or don’t have… Then we are successful.

    I used to be soooooo into the strucutre of the cell church that I lost sight of the value of these relationships…

    House Church Movement, Cell Church Movement, Mega Church Movement. NONE OF THEM MATTER AT ALL if we can’t move people to grow in those three relationships….

    Those are my thoughts.

    In Christ,

  6. MarkTab says:

    Hi Zane

    I’ve been a member of NPCC since 1997 and led a small group under “the system” between 1997 and 2004. After seven years, I told my group that I wanted to leave that system because I was not happy about married people being segregated from singles (and single men being segregated from single women, but that in my mind is a lesser issue).

    I continue to attend NPCC (Buckhead campus, I prefer the term “franchise”) and also financially support the organization. This church has provided me with some good ministry opportunities, but has flaws as does every Protestant church. I have come to believe Protestants generally are the liberal branch of Christianity (liberal in format and traditions) compared with the relatively stable Catholics and Orthodox. In the Protestant world, change IS the tradition.

    I respect house churches, which was the original early church model, and continues to be the normative model in the majority world, especially where Christians are under persecution. Like the Romans of old, many governments today want to retain control and monetary rulership over religion. No church can be pro-missions in the 21st century, while simultaneously disparaging or discounting the house church model. In recent discussions, I have been challenging people in my world to tell me what the difference is between a “small group” and “house church” — the replies are fascinating.

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