Overall Book Review


“Leading a Small Group” by Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey is a powerful and informative book on the tools needed to lead a multiplying small group. The authors list 52 ways to help start a small group from scratch and develop it to 1,520 small groups in just ten years! The uniqueness of this book is the fact that it combines many different structures and ways to build a small group. For example: It gives the “G.R.O.U.P” structure, the “Five Practices of Healthy Small Groups,” the “L.I.F.E Group” structure, and the “Eight Effective Habits of a Small Group.”


The basis of all the great information presented is because “learning to lead a healthy, growing, multiplying small group effectively is a little like eating an elephant. You can’t ‘get it’ all at once. You have to ‘eat it one bite at a time,’ learning a little more regularly and putting it into practice.” Thus, the book offers “high octane equipment, empowerment, and encouragement” for the beginner and “practical guidance” for the veteran.


The authors Dr. Dave Early and Dr. Rod Dempsey have a wealth of experience from many combined years of church planting, leading small groups, and teaching on church building. Dr. Early currently pastors the church he planted with over 2,000 attendees and over 100 small groups. Dr. Dempsey teaches all over the nation on discipleship, small groups, and effective church growth strategies. Also, both are highly respected in the academic world with teaching positions at Liberty Baptist seminary.


Therefore, combining the experience of the author’s ministries and the massive amount of today’s best small group strategies and methods, “Leading a Small Group” is a tremendous book for every leader. This paper will outline some of the best methods and habits noted in this book and how I received them.



What the Book Meant to Me

This book took me back to the time I pastored my first church in New Orleans. I had been doing a form of “home mission” inner city church planting, which was basically raising money from the suburb churches and spending it in the “hood.” I likened this method to “Robin Hood,” taking from the rich and giving to the poor. However, the problem with this method was two-fold, first, we did not develop a church that was self-supporting, and second, the depth of the members was lacking in both spiritual and social maturity. As a result, after four years of “blood, sweet, and tears” we only had a “crowd” that lacked serious discipleship.


Facing the discouragement of never having an indigenous church, I began looking for better methods than our “Robin Hood” method. During this time of searching for better methods I came into contact with the “G12” cell group movement. G12 is a cell based church growth movement from Columbia under the leadership of Cesar Castellanos. Though this movement had proven strategies, it was very one-sided and inflexible. Therefore, when I tried to mold the inner city church I was pastoring into the “exact” G12 model, the result was devastating. We basically crushed the church and lost all of our “crowds” and did not even have disciples!


I wish I had this book before I joined G12.If I would’ve had this book and some maturity we could have started small groups one step at a time.I believe we could’ve had both a great inner city outreaching church and a strong discipleship based small group ministry.





I personally loved this book because it was written in a way that I like to receive information- short and to the point. Also, I prefer books that show a variety of strategies instead of just “pushing” one idea. This is because most of today’s church growth and strategy books come from a church that found “their way” worked and now they want everyone to “do what they did.”


“Leading a Small Group” gives you the impression that God has many tools to use to building a strong small group based church. Such chapters as, “Jesus Was a Small Group Leader,” “Personal Growth: The Fountainhead of Long-Term Effectiveness,” and “Leader Burnout: Healing and Prevention” come with great life lessons and deep truths to base one’s ministry on.


I thought the strongest two strategies mentioned were the “Five Practices of Healthy Small Groups: Welcome, Worship, Witness, Word, and Works” and “Eight Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders: Dream, Pray, Invite, Contact, Prepare, Mentor, Plan, and Personal Growth.”



Application of the Book


Here is a list of the most important actions I derived from this powerful book:


“Five Practices of Healthy Small Group:”


1. Welcome: I believe that every small group meeting must have a time to “meet and great,” a time of snacks, fellowship, and light conversation.


Metro Praise Church Application: Make time to have snacks, games, and small talk before the group starts. This can work in the summer by first meeting the group in the back yard with some activities or by meeting in house with music playing.


2. Worship: The best way to start a small group meeting is to begin with worship. Worship is important because it focuses everyone’s attention on the Lord and opens their hearts to receive what God has for them.


Metro Praise Church Application: If there is a guitar or keyboard player available have them choose 2-3 songs that are easy to learn and sing until everyone can enjoy singing the choruses. If a musician is not available, then play 2-3 songs on the stereo with a song leader praying and encouraging worship during the songs.


3. Witness: Every week there should be a time when the group meets and spreads the word throughout the neighborhood the group meets in. Also, the group should teach practical witnessing tips for the members to use doing the week with co-workers and friends/family.


Metro Praise Church Application: The group should go out witnessing in the neighborhood of the meeting place, local parks, and schools.


4. Word: The small group must honor the Word of God and make it the center of the group’s focus. The leader should be gifted in making the truths of the Bible plain and applicable to the member’s lives.


Metro Praise Church Application: Have a 10-15 time of teaching the Word of God. Illustrations, icebreaker questions, and stories can help teaching the Word of God practical. However, the focus should always be on finding truths in the Word through prayer and prior study by the leader.


5. Works: The small group should be a place where leaders can train other leaders to fulfill their purpose in the ministry. Small groups should take specific ministry opportunities to work together for the growth of the Kingdom of God.


Metro Praise Church Application: The small group can “adopt-a-block” and take time once a month to go together outside of their small group meeting time and minister together, the group could visit the “weaker” members of the church and have home prayer and Bible study with them, or the group could host retreats and special events such as: “men and women’s meetings, “couple’s retreats,” and “conferences at other churches.”





1. Here is the link to buy the book, a most for all small group leaders!


2. Link to the day and times of Metro’s adult small group