Pastor of America's Fastest Growing Church Pioneers New Small Group Strategy

A Colorado church tops the Outreach Magazine's 2014 100 fastest growing churches with an innovated approach to small group.

Cherry Hills Community Church ranked number one with 43 percent growth rate in the last year. The single site church grew to 6,201 members largely under its founder bible scholar Jim Dixon. However its new senior pastor Shane Farmer hopes to sustain that growth by creating section communities within the congregation.

Like small groups, section communities seek to offer members a smaller, more connected experience. Unlike small groups, section communities form and meet primarily on Sunday mornings.

A small part-time staff of 20, Farmer explained, breaks the worship center into sections and assumes leadership of each grouping. The sections then meet before and after church and share an after-service meal together once a month.

Since these communities are formed around where congregants tend to sit every Sunday, certain communities may have a natural affinity for families or young adults or a particular ethnicity, he explained to Outreach.

Farmer took over from Dixon October 20 2013. Before CHCC, the 33 year-old pastor spent nine years with Bill Hybels' Willow Creek Community Church as an intern first and later a director of discipleship and a teaching pastor. It was at Willow Creek, ranked fifth among the 100 largest churches in America, where Farmer first began creating section communities.

The section community concept offers congregants the benefit of a small group feel without taking additional time out of their week. A possible con however could be that some members may become further entrenched in their own circle of friends rather than meeting and drawing from the experiences of others.

Still CHCC members seem to be taking to the idea. Farmer told Outreach Magazine that church members helped raise $2.5 million to fund the initiative.

Outreach Magazine contacted 27,000 churches to create the 100 Fastest Growing Churches list. The rankings are based on attendance averages, not membership. The final rankings reflect an average numerical gain and percentage gain

Second on the list of fastest growing churches is Perry Noble's NewSpring Church with over 30,000 members and 34 percent church growth. Steven Furtick's Elevation Church ranked 11 with over 15,00 members and 20 percent growth in the last year. Rick Warren's Saddleback Church ranked 79 with 9 percent growth and over 23,000 members. J.D. Greer's Summit Church ranked 94 with over 7,000 members 10 percent.