Yesterday I finished Larry Osborne’s book “Sticky Church”. I must admit, the title generated some questions from people who saw me reading it. The bees and honey on the cover aided in the questioning! In short, this is a great book. It was not what I was expecting from a guy who’s had amazing success in growing a successful church. This is NOT a church growth book but more a book about how to keep your church healthy and growing. I’ve written in the past of my disdain for church growth books but this wasn’t one of them.
Osborne begins his book with a brief overview of his own humble beginnings at his church. From there, he writes a series of short, to the point chapters of why he feels his system of “sermon based” small groups had led to the growth and unusually high participation in his church. The final section of the book is the nuts and bolts of the methodology behind “sermon based” small groups. Throughout the book, Osborne comments that the method is quite simple, required no publicity at all, and led to an 80% retention rate in his small group ministry (8 out of 10 adults attending worship participate in the groups). He also mentions that the crux behind it all is a desire to see “sticky” relationships form amongst church members. Along the way, he shoots down methods of small group growth that we’ve heard so much about over the years. Things such as dividing existing groups (he says it’s a ROTTEN idea!), neighborhood or affinity groups (not bad, but not the panacea we are led to believe), and deep curriculum based versus social discussion (there’s a balance!).
I found myself agreeing with much of what Osborne had to say here. For a while now, I’ve had the idea in my head that a sermon based system of learning would be ideal. I’m not sold on the mega church model of “free market” groups as I’ve seen done in my own area. I like that we focus on the growth of people and in so doing, build deep, lasting relationships within our churches. That, Osborne rightly asserts, is how we shut the back door for our guests and retain more and more over the years.
The principles here are able to be modified to any setting. Admittedly, in some settings it will be more difficult than in others but it can be done. What I like about this book is that it doesn’t give you a “system” that you have to implement but rather a series of ideas to build relationships that can be uniquely personalized for your ministry setting. That is why I can recommend this book to you and give it high marks for ease of reading, quality of material shared, and it’s brevity. There isn’t a lot of fluff here designed to fill x-amount of pages. You can mark this book up and use many of it’s ideas right away if you are so inclined.