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Review: A Different Kind of Tribe

I am very excited to review Rick Howerton’s new book A Different Kind of Tribe here on the blog today.

A little about Rick: I believe Rick to be a true blessing in an important transitional season in the small groups space in the United States. Rick has been in the field of small groups long enough to develop friendships with the leaders who built the “standard” groups ministries we all look to for research. Yet he keeps building more and more friendships because that’s who Rick is. I promise if you ever get the privilege to sit down and hang with Rick, you will leave encouraged & hopeful about what God may just do in your life. I personally am extremely grateful for the intentionality Rick has given to my personal and pastoral development. He’s helping the next wave of groups guys feel connected to a movement which will probably keep some of them around that wouldn’t stick otherwise. “Who is Rick Howerton” is worthy of an entire post or series in itself. but that’s not today. So you need to know Rick brings that experience and encouraging voice into this book. I imagine you will leave hopeful. Onto the review.

Title: A Different Kind of Tribe: embracing the new small group dynamic. 208 Pages. Previous Titles by this Author: Destination: Community, and more articles than I can put here for every major groups publishing outlet out there. Author’s Role: National small-group strategist for NavPress.

What I liked (in a bold word with explanations following because I’m trying to be cool here):

  • Thoughtful. I got more than just a “how-to” book! I appreciate the how-to books because I need to always be challenged on implementation. But I appreciate that Rick took his experience in disciple making and brought to the table some very important observations about the context we are disciple making in today. In a way this book feels like a hybrid between a missiology text and a groups ministry text. That’s a good thing.
  • Concepts. ESPECIALLY in parts of chapter 4 “Creating healthy micro-communities” I found myself underlining things saying…this concept should be in my next training. Now, truthfully I didn’t find he always applied those concepts the way I would (though he sure did for some: hello intergenerational community!!!), but I’m grateful for the huge brainstorm it created for me.
  • Practical. I would have been upset had Rick Howerton, who has spent decades training small group leaders, left out the ‘how to!’ The book flows from philosophy to practice and you definitely get your money’s worth in the latter portion of the book when it comes to practice. I’m grateful Rick didn’t leave anything out either. I used to think things like “greet people at the door” weren’t worthy of print. After a few hospitality debacles in our ministry here, I can safely say Rick rightly refuses to assume anything of his reader. Good job Rick.
  • The Four Quadrants of Group Life. Chapter 5. I feel like a lot of readers will walk away retaining the opening of this chapter as a grid for training their leaders how to think big picture about their group. Definitely don’t skip that one.

What I didn’t like:

  • Prescription Overdose. Leaving the book I felt like I had a whole lot of things to do without a good structure or plan to do them in. Some of those tasks seem like pure small group gold, and others seem a little hazy to me. I believe a tight action plan throughout, or a stronger closing ‘call to action’ may have helped. not sure. And here’s the thing, Rick’s stuff is so strong, I want a plan to implement as much as I can. And I want to help the average group leader do the same instead of starting on his own.
  • The Gospel appears on pg 173 of 208. Ok ok, I’m definitely just using Rick’s language here. Gospel thought in the form of grace, humility, mission, community, & more appear throughout the book. But the explicit call to application of the gospel comes later than I’d like. Then again, I wouldn’t listen to me too much because I’m a little too immersed in the reformed world. I think Rick’s voice probably appeals to a broader audience well & I don’t think he sacrifices the gospel. Just doesn’t give it the page # priority I would have liked. Again, I’m over-sensitive there.
  • I’m only quoted twice. Ha! Truthfully I am very honored & humbled Rick asked me to put a brief word in (like a paragraph or 2, nothing big. but you better believe I took a pic & showed my momma). He and I have been on a learning journey together in the area of multi-generational community. It was fun & helpful to me to do a little collaboration with him there.

I can’t speak highly enough about Rick Howerton. yes, my review is biased because of that I’m sure. But man, this guy is awesome. So thank you to a great friend for going through the hard work to write a helpful book in the small groups space.

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