During the reinvention of my local church, which I describe in my book Crossing Over, there was a stage when many people stopped attending Home Groups. After 25yrs it seemed the whole Home Group structure was fading and, rather than do the usual drive to get people back into groups, I waited and watched what they did instead.
Having resisted the pressure from some group leaders to coral people back into their groups, I observed that many people were now volunteering in one of the many new ministries we had started: bus ministry, red light team, homeless outreach team, etc. Our church was shifting from what I’d call a fellowship-based church to a purpose driven church and it was all totally organic.
The 25-year-old wineskin of small groups was over but the new wineskin was difficult to identify. As we had historically exercised a more controlling style of leadership, the scariest thing for us was that the people were doing the leading, not us! Their function was determining whatever form came next. They were the new wine and we had no wineskin from our past to put it in. We felt out of control and that was the whole idea!
Previously we had created structure and expected people to serve it. But this time we allowed the old structure to fade and just followed their function. Eventually a new structure emerged but it followed the life in the people. Always allow form to follow function. Don’t be a slave to forms that no longer suit your function.
Don’t make people fit your forms, your way of doing things; the life is in the function not the form. Follow function and form will always emerge.