Customer Reviews: Making Small Groups Work: What Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on May 26, 2006
This book was not what I was looking for in regards to small groups. It seemed mostly about "support groups". By this I mean small groups where the focus is specifically about a certain area of needed support: divorce recovery, parenting teenagers, addiction recovery, etc. Because "support" seemed to be the focus, there was a lot of valuable info about leading a group where there will be a lot of personal sharing. There were practical ideas for setting group boundaries, dealing with "problem" participants (overly needy, too talkative...) and other issues when you are guiding a support group.

However, I was looking more for info about leading small group Bible study groups - where the focus is more on learning, study, and spiritual growth. And not specifically "support". I guess I was looking more for ideas on how to create a interactive learning environment with adults. Although I got a handful of helpful ideas from this book, it did not give me the guidance and ideas I was hoping for in this regard.

I give it 4 stars because it is a great guide if you are leading a support group. I think the title of the book should be changed to "Making support groups work". To me, there is a difference between a traditional small group and a support group..... I mean, I know that in ANY type of small group you want to foster close relationships where people can share. But I wasn't looking for "support" as being the PRIMARY focus of my group. Rather a secondary focus as we study the Bible.

I am not sure I have expressed myself the most clearly, but those are my thoughts.
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on August 24, 2007
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have written a book that every small groups leader/pastor can benefit from reading: Making Small Groups Work. It's been sitting on my shelf for 2 years, and I finally read it!

The book focuses on basic principles of spiritual and relational growth, group structure, discussion facilitation, and the creation of safe growth environments. Thus, the book is applicable and relevant to leaders of any small group regardless of the type or model of small groups the church has established.

The books is divided into six sections, and each section consists of several short chapters:

1. How Small Groups Help People Grow
2. What Happens in a Good Group
3. Starting a Small Group
4. The Resonsibilities of Group Facilitators
5. The Responsibilities of Group Members
6. How to Deal with Problems in Groups

Each chapter is very practical, readable, and short. The authors make great use of bullet points and lists to narrow the focus of the topic they are targeting. Because of the arrangement of the chapters, the book also serves well as a quick reference guide. The authors include excellent examples of "role playing" and "scripts" to assist a leader in finding the right words to communicate the points they are illustrating. Their challenge to "guard the process" serves as a foundation for the entire book.

I especially like the fact that they have dedicated an entire section of chapters to the responsibilities of group members. I spend a lot of time training leaders on their responsibilities, but I rarely address the expectations for groups members. This is an area in which we should try to grow at National Community Church.

Since the book is so practical and not tied to any specific small group model or method, it could work well as a leadership training manual. Personally, I would like to see an existing small group actually use the book as their study text.

Drs. Cloud and Townsend bring years of professional counseling experience and ministry experience to the church. While much of the book seems to be geared towards leading support/recovery groups, their work is extremely valuable and applicable to all types of groups. I would also recommend their book How People Grow.
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on August 5, 2006
I bought the unabridged audiotape version of this book, hoping to utilize some significant portions of road-trip time to learn more for my leadership role with our church's small group ministry. Though not normally a Cloud/Townsend fan, I was pleased to hear them introduce the book by indicating that they would discuss two questions that all church leaders are asking: how do we find more small group leaders and how do we train them. They proceeded to spend the next eight hours completely ignoring those key questions. I only wish they would have answered them.

Instead of offering strategic, visionary, thought-provoking advice for ministry leaders and small group leaders, Cloud and Townsend rambled on about how to deal with people's feelings and emotions. This type of book is exactly why I generally avoid books written by Christian counselors. I couldn't begin to count the number of times that they referred to feelings and emotions. While I know that emotional understanding is important to leading people in groups, there is so much more to it. I agree with an earlier reviewer who suggested that this book is primarily geared toward leading support groups. While important, that is only one type of legitimate group within the church. The title of this book presumes to be too broadly applicable, when their focus is very narrow.

I was also annoyed by their insistence on using the word "facilitator," rather than "leader." I think that every lousy group that I've attended resulted from the mindset of the leader that they wanted to facilitate and not lead. What groups need is passionate, committed, and competent leadership, not just facilitators.

As another irritation, despite the multitude of fantastic small group resources available, Cloud and Townsend did not refer to a single resource other than their own books. It's as if they feel specially enabled to speak with authority about small groups, and no one else in the world has anything to add. That's nothing if not arrogant.

Finally, they included innumerable scripts for precise wording that leaders should use within the group context. The suggestions that they offer are so wooden and trite that any leader who would actually say those things to people would yield nothing but laughter. It is so much more helpful to describe concepts and ideas, rather than pat one-liners.

The best part of the book came near the end, when they discussed the plague of spiritualization that often happens in Christian small groups. Those few minutes were very worthwhile, and I wished they had covered the topic more thoroughly (though they were kind enough to suggest that I read another one of their books on the topic!!).

Quite frankly, I would not recommend this book to anyone, with the possible exception of a support group leader. It was boring and lacked any substantive strategic help for church and small group leaders. Check out Donahue and Robinson's "Walking the Small Group Tightrope," Frazee's "The Connecting Church," or Willits' "Creating Community" instead.
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on July 8, 2008
This verse is one of the foundations upone which this book rests. Making Small Groups Work by Henry Cloud and John Townsend emphasize not church growth but individual Christian growth through the participation in a small group community. The book focuses on how through small groups, individual Christians can work through areas that are difficult to grow with the support of others. Many Christians struggle in silence without knowing even how to ask for help. The old spirtiual truth that sins isolates and causes us to hide in shame from God and one another is clearly shown through Adam and Even sin as the authors point out. Many guilty and shameful feelings gnaw at us, and express themselves through quirky and at times destructive behavior. Such feelings run rampant in the hearts of Christians and if left unresolved may often result lead to other relational problems and even destructive behavior. The church is in need of addressing such needs but are often ill-equipped to foster such an atmosphere to meet such problems. The advice that Cloud and Townsend give us create an a community where believers in Christ may bring that which shames and isolates us to the light.

As Christians trained in psychology, Cloud and Townsend provide the premise that human beings, designed by God, were created for community. Our first small group that we are born into is our family, and it is here that we are to receive that which we need to function in life. Sin though has derailed this purpose and it is through the community of the church that we are to receive that which our families could not give to us. The church however must be able to address individual needs at a much more intimate and safer setting: hence the need for small groups.

This book provides many practical insights for why we should be members of small groups and how they can best function to provide support to face our hidden shames, and debilitating weaknesses, which hinder our growth in Christ. The authors pose that a good small group will leads us to instill new ways of thinking that allow us to be better integrated with ourselves, with others, and with Christ.
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on December 12, 2004
My life has been greatly changed by a men's small group that I attended through church. I was able to break through many issues that held me back in life. This book perfectly described the process that I went though. This is essential reading for those involved in small group ministries. It goes beyond theory and into practical matters of managing small groups to keep them effective and on track. Excellant examples of how to get the group to set rules, manage the members that dominate discussion and draw out those that always hold back.

Highly recomended.
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on March 25, 2016
This 2003 book has been updated and simplified by Cloud, Townsend and Bill Donahue in a video series and book by the same title. This older text does contain insights not included in t he newer edition, but the newer edition is better organized for use by a small group trying to strengthen itself.
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on October 20, 2013
This book explains how to define a purpose for forming a small group. It explains how a divorce recovery small group is different from a Bible Study small group. There are suggestions on how to deal with an overly talkative member. There are suggestions on how to deal with one person constantly interrupting other members while they are talking. There are suggests on how to get the discussion back on topic after it has drifted off on a tangent. It shows how to develop ground rules for the group. The steps are simple and practical.
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on October 21, 2013
Henry Cloud hits it out of the park again with this book. Leading a small group is not for the faint of heart. It requires hard work, dedication and continued prayer. It also should require this excellent resource if you want to do it well.
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on September 29, 2007
I love anything by Henry Cloud. This book was no exception. I think he nails the problem right on the head. We have too many groups out there that are great places to attend but many of them don't demand change from the members. (This leaves them empty and then they go back to their old patterns) The other type of groups may offer strong biblical truth but perhaps in such a "religious" way that they don't allow room for transparency and honesty from their members. (this can breed hipocracy from the few who will even bother to return!)

Henry and John explain how to find balance and they also offer over 2 dozen chapters on line-by-line issues in groups and how to address them. Check it out for yourself! Blessings,

Jeff Ludy -The Ark Family Church in Conroe, TX
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on July 3, 2012
This book is a good blend of psychology and Bible. I have long been a fan of Townsend and Cloud and was eager to get this book. It did not disappoint. They make psychological principles accessible to the average Joe and apply them in the context of small group life. Very helpful. Highly recommended for anyone who leads a small group.

Josh Hunt
Teach Like Jesus
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