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20 Quotes | Sticky Church

20 Quotes | Sticky Church

Sticky Church by Larry Osborne is an excellent book on the role of small groups in the life of the church.

While some of the concepts are very specific to Osborne’s church context and leadership convictions, much of what he shares is transferrable. You’ll likely notice the similarities to Park City Church’s groups strategy and emphasis.

I hope you enjoy these 20 Quotes from the work.


We’ve often become so focused on reaching people that we’ve forgotten the importance of keeping people. (13)

By far the most powerful tool for keeping our back door shut and making the church sticky has been our commitment to sermon-based small groups. In fact, the most important number to know about North Coast Church (author’s church) is not the weekend attendance. It’s the percentage of adults who participate in one of our small groups…80 percent of our average weekend attendance. (21)

Occasionally, we’ve temporarily slipped below the 80 percent mark (and I’m sure we will again someday). Each time, it has called for an all-hands-on-deck meeting. Since we see these groups as the hub of our ministry—more important than even the weekend services—we’ve stopped to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. (21-22)

Whatever you do to reach people you have to continue to do to keep them. Let’s think through the experience of an unchurched neighbor who decides to come to a special outreach event. Suppose he likes it well enough to come back the next week. When he does, the exceptional music, the props, the great speaker, or whatever else it was that duly impressed him will almost surely be gone. If it’s the weekend after Christmas or Easter, it’s likely that the senior pastor and all the folks who put it together will be gone also. After all, they’ll need a break. It’s not easy to put on such an extravaganza…Now compare that with the neighbor whose first visit is the result of a word-of-mouth invitation to a typical weekend service. While he might not be as impressed or wowed by the initial show, he certainly won’t be as disappointed when he shows up a second time. There’s no bait and switch to overcome. (31-32)

The focus of a sermon-based small group is not so much on the curriculum as it is on the process…The ultimate goal of sermon-based small group is simply to Velcro people to the two things they will need most when faced with a need-to-know or need-to-grow situation: The Bible and other Christians. (43)

…Another powerful advantage of a churchwide commitment to small groups is the number of opportunities it creates for significant ministry. Let’s face it: In most churches there aren’t that many opportunities for high-impact, life-on-life ministry…Small groups open up lots of new opportunities for frontline ministry… In too many of our churches, we offer discipleship training and leadership training without providing any significant platform for people to do the things they’ve been trained to do. (51)

Still another powerful advantage that small groups can bring is a marked increase in the practice of spiritual disciplines…For instance, at North Coast we have an amazing prayer meeting that takes place virtually every week. Few people realize it’s happening, because it is stealth, spread out throughout our community in different locations on different days. But there are more people sharing intimate personal prayer requests and actually praying for one another than we could ever fit into our facility for a traditional prayer meeting….Same with Bible study… The same goes for service projects, fellowship, Communion, and a host of spiritual disciplines that our small groups move from the realm of “I should do it” to “I’ve done it” by simply putting them on the weekly schedule. (55,56)

Sermon-based small groups also made it much easier for our teaching team to keep the entire church focused and headed in the same direction… By definition, they put everyone on the same page—and make them look at that page more than once. (62)

Sermon-based groups also make it easier to mainstream new believers. That’s because these groups tend to be less intimidating for those who lack any spiritual or biblical background. (68)

There’s still another advantage that comes with a lecture-lab small group model. It’s that most people (including the marginally interested and new Christians) come to the meeting far more prepared than they would if they were using a typical workbook or study guide. (70)

I think of people as being like Legos. We all have a limited number of connectors. Introverts have a few. Some extroverts have dozens. But either way, once they’re full, they’re full…I have lots of connectors. But due to my role and years in the community, I also have so many relationships that I don’t have any empty connectors left. In fact, sometimes when my friends aren’t looking, I’ll take one of them off so I can connect with someone else for a while….This can be very confusing and frustrating for people who are new to a community or church. The acts of friendship send one message, but the lack of connection sends another. It’s why so many people complain about churches being cliquish. The reality is, it’s not so much a church full of cliques as it is a church full of people whose connectors are already full. (79, 80)

As a rule of thumb, most people will participate in only two timeslots a week. No matter what that third meeting is for or when it takes place, it’s hard to get anyone to show up…I find that most churches have far too many things on the docket. (92)

To ensure that the most important and productive ministries thrive, it’s necessary to periodically prune the programs and the ministries that are least effective or most draining. In other words, we need to find ways to cut the competition as much as possible…We chose to radically cut competition because we felt that none of these other programs had the potential to provide the breadth and depth of significant relationships, or the laserlike focus on God’s Word, that we could achieve with sermon-based small groups. (93)

Some see small groups as the ideal vehicle for discipleship. Some think they’re the perfect tool for evangelism. Some view them as the secret to unlimited church growth. Still others use them to shepherd the flock, administrate the church, provide for deep Bible study, or produce an environment that fosters no-holds-barred sharing and prayer. And then there are always those who just want everyone to have some friends. With so many competing viewpoints and paradigms, it’s essential that the primary purpose for your small group ministry be agreed on before the launch and then carefully and continually articulated from that point onward. (100)

I’m often asked, “If groups aren’t pushed to divide and are allowed to stay together as long as they like, how is it possible to create new groups fast enough to meet the needs of a growing church—especially a rapidly growing church?” The answer lies in two strategies: Starting new groups, and hiving off leaders rather than dividing entire groups…We ask every small group leader in our existing groups to appoint an apprentice leader who will head up their group at least once a quarter. Then, at the end of each quarter, we contact the leaders and ask if anyone in their group (apprentice or not) is ready to step up and lead their own group (121).

Anyone who is hyper-spiritual, constantly peppering their speech with God-talk, makes for a terrible small group leader….You know the type. They have all the outward symbols of spirituality. They’re committed, a bit fanatical, mildly condescending. They usually know their Bible incredibly well and are quick to let everyone know. They have a verse or a Christian cliché for every situation. (127)

Another kind of leader who will destroy a group is the single-issue crusader. It doesn’t really matter what the issue is. If someone sees the world through just one narrow lens, it won’t be long until they try to force everyone else in the group to join their crusade. (127)

The best way to find new leaders is to ask for recommendations. The worst way is to ask for volunteers…Asking for volunteers is risky… Once you’ve asked for help, there is no kind way to say, “I didn’t mean you.” Asking for volunteers always surfaces a number of folks who love God but don’t have the relational skills needed to lead a group. That’s because when it comes to self-awareness, socially challenged people don’t have any. (131)

Another problem with asking for volunteers is that it tends to devalue the role. It sends a message of shortage. It conveys the idea that anyone can do this job. Contrast that with personally recruiting those who have been recommended by fellow group members. That sends a very different message. It elevates the role and conveys the image of honor and prestige. (131-132)

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make when it comes to either launching or reengineering a small group ministry is a failure to carefully align both vision and methods. The result is often a ministry that functions much like an automobile with its front tires badly out of alignment. While it can still get down the road, the ride is way too bumpy and the tires wear out way too quickly. That’s why I always encourage pastors and church leaders to work through a series of five key “alignment” questions before launching or reengineering their small group ministry. (149)

Larry Osborne is a teaching pastor and kingdom ambassador at North Coast Church in northern San Diego County. Larry speaks extensively on the subject of leadership and developing healthy ministry teams. Larry is the author of numerous books and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Talbot Theological Seminary. Larry and his wife, Nancy, live in Oceanside, California.

Purchase a copy of Sticky Church here.