When Godtfred Kirk Christiansen took over The Legos Toy Company from his father in 1957, they made 265 different toys. Their focus was almost nonexistent. There were just too many different things to think about. There was no way to concentrate, drive innovation, and to expand the number of people they impacted.
But the problem was who in their right mind does fewer things to do more things? Who intentionally stops doing what people expect? Who puts a halt to the very thing that brings people in the doors in order to grow and expand? I’ll tell you who does – leaders do.
Godtfred came to an unusual conclusion after looking at their products and company. But his decision wasn’t just unusual for a toy company, it was strange for any organization for that matter. He felt that Legos Toy Company made 264 too many toys. He wanted to concentrate all their resources and create a system around one toy. One that was unique and could be used to build a wide range of connections with people.
He took an existing idea and created the modern plastic brick. Yes, they had the right idea but lots of work still lay ahead. It’s one thing to build a brick, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to build lots and lots of them. So, the company invested heavily, taking another five years to find the right materials and manufacturing. They also had to overcome the assumption that everyone knew to be true: wooden toys were better and plastic toys were never going to be popular.
Mr. Christiansen stuck to his guns and, as they say, the rest is history. Today, Lego makes around 36 billion pieces a year! That’s about 125 million pieces a day, and about 5 million every hour. There are eight Legoland amusement parks and eight Legoland Discover Centers around the world. The company’s been quick to bring new toys to market — last year, 48% of Lego’s products were new — and in expanding its retail footprint. In 2022, Lego opened 155 new shops, with an emphasis on China, bringing its total store count to 904(1).
One Brick at a Time
When I think about Small Groups, I can’t help thinking about Legos. Legos are why Small Groups work. Or is it the other way around? Like Legos, Small Groups are the foundation that makes growth possible. Growth for individuals. Growth for individual Small Groups. Growth for the church at large.
From the one Lego idea, you can build almost anything. Death Star and X-Wing from Star Wars. Full-size house with furniture. Kennedy Space Center including Space Shuttles. A polar bear. The list goes on and on. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. The list is only limited by your creativity, desire, and having enough bricks!
The same is true for Small Groups. You can create Small Groups that are age-based because they help people connect based on common stage-of-life needs. You can organize Small Groups based on location, making it easy for people to come together. Small Groups can be generated based on common interests like helping the poor, square dancing, and anything else that makes sense to you.
From the One: Many
And that’s what Legos and Small Groups do. By themselves, they’re small and almost insignificant. But together, you can build something truly great. Memorable. Something for the ages. And it’s because of modularity.
Modularity is an awkward work that tells a great big, beautiful, and elegant story. It’s the ability to make big things out of small things. Now, that probably didn’t take your breath away, but it’s true. True for Legos. True for Small Groups.
Think of it this way. The SpaceX Starship Super Heavy is the most powerful rocket ever built. But it doesn’t have just one great big engine, or even a handful like the Saturn V. first stage. Instead, it has 33 Raptor 2 engines. Because they are smaller, they’re easier to build and put together into larger ships.
The same is true for Small Groups. One Small Group has some influence. And that should be celebrated. But when you add a few more Small Groups, the overall impact grows and grows. Small Groups let you scale-up involvement, discipleship, and ownership.
Small Groups give ways for people to connect. To grow personally and organizationally. To become something greater than the individuals.
So, how do you build a Small Group mentality? A way to think about Small Groups as the building blocks of your church. Here are the three key ideas to follow.
First – Think Slow, Act Fast.
If you’re reading this article, more than likely you’re a leader. And that makes you impatient as the day is long. You’re never, never, never going to put enough time in your schedule for planning. But the funny thing is that the more time you put into planning, you lower the risk of failure and increase the likelihood of success.
To make rash, hasty decisions shows that you are not trusting the Lord. But when you rely totally on God, you will still act carefully and prudently.
Proverbs 28:25 TPT
Relying on God takes time. There’s no such thing as instant trust. And there’s nothing instant about making plans. Refining plans.
And after your slow planning, do it quickly. Act fast and decisively. And as you act, get lots of feedback, reactions, and information. What did you accomplish and why? What old problems remain? Which new problems were born? How do you pivot to eliminate more problems and grow more people?
Second – Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
As you do your planning, keep asking yourself, “How can we make this easier? How can we make this simpler? How can we make this foolproof?”
Remember, no one outside your planning team has any idea what you’re thinking about. They have no history or experience with all the ideas and iterations you went through. It may sound simple and straightforward to you, but you’ve been working with the ideas for some time.
since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
Simplifying is what God does when it comes to making himself known. He makes himself plain to them, and that begins with simplifying his message and information.
Here are a few tips to remember.
- Lingo. You might be using terms, concepts, and ideas that are familiar to you but very unfamiliar to people outside your planning team. Go through all your materials and presentations, spend lots of time on a “Search and Destroy” mission to eliminate words and phrases that will make people feel like outsiders. Do everything possible to make everything you say, all your materials, all your ideas into bite-sized chunks.
- Tech-Know. I get it that there’s a certain amount of “cool geek vibe” when you distribute a new app. But don’t assume that everyone will immediately jump up and down at the prospect of having yet another app on their phone. Don’t be surprised if you get lots of pushback if you just throw an app at people, or there’s lots of problems with the rollout. Test, get feedback, fix, retest, redeploy.
- Grow. By all means go outside and find the best possible resources and people to help you with your Small Groups. You need to spend money on resources to find and shape your ideas. But, in the end, it’s got to be yours. Take the best you can find and then grow your own ideas. Sow your dreams and grow your people. There’s no way to outsource growth. It’s yours and yours alone.
Third – Don’t Tweak, Repeat
As you roll out your Small Group ideas and plans, there will always be some people that think that they’re special. They know better. And since they’ve been doing it a certain way for a long time, they should be “grandfathered in” with how they’re doing things.
Based on personal experience, my words of advice is don’t tweak, but repeat. Everyone and I mean everyone needs to follow the same flow. Be under the same focus. Be going in the same direction. And my personal experience isn’t from some highly intellectual idea. It’s not the side you’re expecting. You see, I was the person who knew best.
I was leading a Small Group at a church that was starting a campaign to significantly expand their building with a gym, offices, meeting rooms, and kitchen. For reasons that are not important, I was not in favor of the expansion or financial campaign.
The church leadership sent out information and materials for all the Small Groups to cover and discuss. The goal was to inform and excite people to actively contribute. And since I was not in agreement with their goals, what was I to do?
I quietly and privately went to my Small Group leadership and, with all the clarity and humility possible, I explained my thought and reasoning. I then said that I would support them and their leadership. I would share the information with a positive and encouraging attitude.
You see, unity was and is more important than my being right. More important than my thoughts about a building or money. Their plans had nothing to do with the person and work of Jesus or the authority of the Bible. It was a matter of opinion, and I needed to defer to them. I had to move myself and my attitude under their leadership.
I beseech you, on your part, to show deference to such men, and to every one who participates in their work and toils hard.
1 Corinthians 16:16 WNT
There will be times when Small Group leaders will need to defer their opinions, swallow their pride, and be consistent with all the other Small Groups.
If you’re looking for something to energize your life with Jesus, follow His example and build strong relationships like Legos with a Small Group.