Pastoring groups has become a trending issue in pastoral care discussions and has been increasingly accepted by more and more urban churches. The health of groups is foundational for the health and stability of their home church. Giving pastoral oversight to the multiplying of numbers of people in a group is important, but healthy regrouping is even more so. One of the challenges in the practice of pastoral care for groups is: how to ensure healthy regrouping of a group when the number of people increases?
When I attended a church group gathering in Beijing, I found that the group was facing the need to regroup. In the gathering, the group of 15 people or so come only to sit around two tables in two connected rooms, one large room and one smaller one. Cheerful laughter, pleasant conversations, warm hospitality, and gracious service is evidence of the warm atmosphere the home has. Their friendship seems genuine.
However, they have to face the need to separate the group. Although there is much reluctance, a choice must be made for the healthy growth of the group. The team leader, Ms. Zhou says the group members get along so well that when facing the need to separate the group, they find it emotionally difficult to accept it. There are brothers joking about this, saying "no one is to be left behind."
Yet she says the regrouping is a must. Relatively speaking, the presence of more people will have an impact on the group's bible reading. The opportunity for interaction by everyone will be reduced. As a group leader, her personal effort is limited, so the concern for individual group members will be relatively inadequate resulting in increased personal pressure on herself.
Regarding regrouping, we interviewed a church's lead pastor, Mr. Tang, who gave his opinion on healthy regrouping.
Q: What is a suitable size for a group?
A: No more than 12 is better. If it exceeds 10, then start regrouping plans. The assistant leader needs to start preparing for his or her new role.
Q: How does it affect a group when there are few or many members? What is the need for regrouping when there are more members?
A: If the group is less than 6, it feels somewhat desolate. Group sharing, discussion, prayer would be difficult to initiate and the spiritual atmosphere would be lessened.
Too many group members might result in inadequate time for sharing and interacting. If some participants dominated the discussion others would lack in opportunity to participate.
In addition, too large a size could consume longer time--for example, dragging the group participants to 10 pm or even later. If it gets to be later than 10 pm, and they usually go to sleep by 11, this can affect their quality of sleep. They need to go to work the next day. So members who live far away would have relatively greater burden. Moreover, when the size is large, it will be hard work for the receiving family as well. The group leader's level of care for each member will also decline.
Q: How many ways do cell groups generally regroup?
A: Generally there are four ways. In the first one, the group leader builds a new group, and then hands the current members over to the assistant leader. In the second way, if the assistant leader is capable and gifted, he or she can start a new group. In the third way, the assistant leader leads some capable members within the group to be co-workers to receive new members to start a new group. And in the fourth way there are many group assistants. They can therefore also be regrouped into several smaller groups at the same time. However, this situation is rare. It requires a large number of people in the group to have the gift to serve as a team leader.
Q: Is there anything to be aware of if a group wants to be regrouped in a healthy way?
A: Yes, there are a few things that need to be prepared in advance. 1. The group leader needs to pass on the vision of regrouping. So when the size reaches 10, one should have already prepared ahead of time.
2. Train by teaching good skills to the assistant leader in advance and do the training either in the usual group gathering or as a church training.
3. If the assistant leader plans to set up a new group, communicate well in advance with him or her as to whom he or she hopes to take along as part of the new group. Also, communicate well with other members in private. It is best that both sides are willing to work together to build new groups. If there is unwillingness, depending on the situation, those with the stronger opinion should not strongly impose. Otherwise, it is possible to cause some hurt and damage in the process of regrouping.
Q: The other day, the group to which I went with you, had reached 15 or 16 in number. The brothers and sisters gett along very well, just like a big family. They expressed their great reluctance to regroup. What should their church do in such a situation?
A: First of all, we can build a consciousness among ourselves that regrouping is the general trend which is healthier for the group. The church's ministry is based on God's affairs not on personal feelings. Their church therefore needs to help the group members understand that there is a reason to regroup.
Their church needs to communicate with the group leaders, and the congregation should often share the vision of regrouping. The number of people affects the time and opportunity for each person to participate in sharing in the group. Moreover, the group leader would not care enough so would feel guilty. In addition, too many people for the host family can also mean more pressure in hosting and may also affect the family's life.
In addition, the mission of the group is to absorb and care for new team members rather than being together to feel good and edify one another. They should remember the mandate of evangelism. When the brothers and sisters understand the meaning of and reasons for regrouping, they can also overcome their emotional issues.
- Translated by Charlie Li