Small Groups (breakout session)

What kind of small group/life group is your church?

  • Groups built around age
  • Groups built around location
  • Groups built around activities/hobbies
  • Groups built around ________________

Free Market Model at National Community Church (by Heather Zempel)

National Community Church (NCC) in Washington, DC functions on the free market- semester system model for their small groups. They have dozens of small groups that meet in workplaces, homes, and coffeehouses throughout the DC-metro area. They provide the following types of small groups:
* Bible or Book Study
* Core Discipleship
* Couples
* Interest
* Men
* Mission, Service and Outreach
* Weekend Ministry
* Women
Their small groups range from 5-12 people and they meet regularly for fellowship and discipleship. Some of their groups are typical Bible studies or book study groups. Others are focused on outreach and missions. Their interest-based groups create environments for people to do life together within the context of shared activities—fantasy baseball, sports, arts, etc. All of their groups exist to help people connect to God and connect to others.

They also encourage every NCCer to begin their journey with Alpha and to start with the Discipleship Map. The Discipleship Map lists their core discipleship experiences. These are the groups, retreats, and classes that they believe every NCCer should participate in at some point during their time at NCC. It is built around four dimensions of discipleship that is in Acts 2:41-47: Seeker (the spiritual dimension), Learner (the intellectual dimension), Influencer (the relational dimension), and Investor (the stewardship dimension).

Next is the outpost island Journey, an 8-week small group that introduces the four dimensions of discipleship. From there, they are invited to explore the other islands. Each island contains a “port city” as a recommended starting point, but you can visit any spot on the map whenever you want. It is not linear, does not have an endpoint, and is flexible to meet individual needs.

Their vision for small groups is Be One, Make One, For One:
* Be One: a disciple.
* Make One: a disciple.
* For One: Christ and his glory.

The reason NCC meets in semester systems is because between the large number of students and the typical flow of Congressional activity, DC tends to operate on a semester-like system. In order to harness the natural momentum created by the ebbs and flows of DC life, they experimented with running all of their small groups on a semester system. They found that implementing a semester system is helpful because first, semester-based groups allow easy entry and exit points; you don’t have to commit to a group for the rest of your life. Two, they believe NCCers are able to move more easily from one group to another as their spiritual needs and interests change. Three, they believe it encourages more involvement by allowing people to experiment with leading a group for a short period of time.

They believe this schedule gives you easy entry and exit points and the opportunity to explore several group options throughout the year. Their semesters are consistent year-to-year:
* Spring: February – April
* May Term
* Summer: June – July
* Fall: September – December

Apprentice Approach at Community Christian Church (by Eric Metcalf)

Community Christian Church (Naperville, IL) believes that life change happens best in small groups. They believe small groups offer you the chance to: 1.) Grow deeper in your relationship with God 2.) Connect with others in the church community 3.) Expand your vision of what God can through and in your life.

They encourage their members to find biblical community by joining an adult small group of 8-16 people to connect weekly for encouragement and interaction. These small groups meet 1-2 hours a week typically at a home, church facility or restaurant.

They realize that some people are interested in connecting with people who live close to them, are in the same stage in life, or at the same stage in their spiritual journey, so they offer a variety of connecting options:
* Open/mixed adult groups: include multi-cultural, inter-generational
* Men’s and women’s groups
* Couples
* Singles or the “spiritually” single groups
* Support and recovery groups
* Beginning Christ followers
CCC focuses on an apprentice model and multiplying future leaders within their body. Because CCC has multi-site campuses, they have seen the importance of having small groups when launching a new location. Because of the need to grow God’s kingdom, they have created what they call Turbo groups- as they saw a great need for them initially.

For 6-12 weeks, they equip, challenge and nurture people into new leaders of small groups, ministries, and/or other initiatives through Turbo groups. These are the advantages they see to having Turbo Groups: 1. They are a place where potential leaders receive encouragement. People are able to see themselves as potential leaders as they receive encouragement from their group leader.

2. They are a great place for high-capacity leaders to emerge. When they start turbo groups, they look for apprentice coaches to work along side in developing new leaders. The coaches meet with the leaders one on one as they’re being developed.
3. They help equip leaders with the skills, perspective, and confidence to lead small groups. Turbo groups give practical training and help. Leaders think through issues before they begin their small group.
4. They provide a small group experience in the midst of learning. They allow attenders to experience various small group dynamics.

CCC would say that if you’re considering launching a new location, and you want biblical community to be at the DNA of your new site, then turbo groups might be the most important thing you do. It will allow you to explore leadership in the context of a small group.

CCC’s time commitment and qualifications for small group leaders are:
·       weekly facilitation of small group meeting is 8 hrs/month.
·       weekly planning and preparation with apprentice leader (4 hrs./month)
·       monthly meeting with coach (1 hr./month)
·       monthly participation in leadership community (3 hrs./month)
·       connection with small group and invites (2 hrs/month)
·       participating in grouping events (occasionally)
·       leaders must have a Jesus-centered life
·       Humble/teachable
·       committed to the mission of helping people find their way back to God through small groups

10 Insights for Leading a life group:

1.  Pray Continually. Feel free to share anything that’s on your heart with your heavenly Father before your group meets. Asking God to bring wisdom and guidance is central to any work of His people. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

2.  Serve your group “In View of God’s Mercy” toward your life.  Leading a Life Group will take a sacrifice of time, energy, emotion, possibly a dollar or two for snacks…etc.  Rather than serving out of guilt or fear or pressure – serve in response to being served by God.  His unmerited love and mercy toward us can motivate us to love those in our group with the same kind of love.  “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). “For Christ’s love compels us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14).

3.  Remember You’re Not Alone. Gathering around with others to talk about real questions of life and faith can be intimidating for some. What’s great is that God knows your every need and will be with you! “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).   “He is not far from each of us” (Acts 17:27).

4.  Just be yourself. God has made you into who you are in a purposeful way.  “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). “Your hands have shaped and made me” (Job 10:8). God isn’t expecting you to be someone else, bring your own uniqueness to the study. He has brought you to this place and time of service. Where He guides, He provides.

5.  Don’t let lack of Bible knowledge intimidate you during times of discussion.  While knowledge of what the Bible says is helpful when it comes to talking about our faith, most of us can point to a story from our life that reveals God’s continued work.  If you truly don’t have the answer, don’t feel the need to make one up. Maybe someone else in your group will have a great insight.  If there is still need for further clarification ask someone on the pastoral staff to give assistance.

6.  Nervousness is normal. The apostle Paul (who wrote much of the New Testament) had similar moments, “I came to you brothers in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power…” (1 Corinthians 2:3-4). God does not choose the qualified, but qualifies the chosen. God says, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a).

7.  Prepare for the gathering ahead of time. While you won’t be the only one answering the questions, prayerfully work through them and know your own answers ahead of time. This will keep your from feeling the pressure of the moment, and give you a chance to focus in on what others are saying. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

8.  When you ask questions, be patient. While you have reviewed the questions for the session ahead of time, the people in your group are likely hearing these questions for the first time.  If silence doesn’t bother you, it won’t bother anyone else. Affirm whatever answers are shared when someone does speak. Be sure to ask, “How about someone else?” or “Would someone who hasn’t shared like to add anything.”

9.    Enjoy yourself. More than working through a study, you are getting to interact with other members of God’s family. Together you are then getting to talk about, pray to, and hear from a God who can do more than we ask or think. What an exciting time! What an adventure!  Focus on enjoying the journey with those God’s assembled around you.

10.   No particular outcome of any kind rests on your shoulders.  God is the one who brings change and makes things grow. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

Lessons and Resources

  • REACH (Their story, your story, His story)
  • Who: Who are YOU, Who are WE, Who are THEY
  • Who are you when no one’s looking: Insight into personal integrity (Courage, Discipleship, Vision, Endurance, Compassion, Self-sacrifice)
  • Fruity (fruit of the spirit series)
  • Prayer and Revival
  • Truth Project
  • Crown Financial $
  • Treasure Principle
  • Mark Batterson Blog
  • (open resource)
  • (awesome training website)

Getting in the Community

  • Widows
  • Adopt your neighborhood
  • Church events
  • Caroling
  • Supper nights (grilling, picinic, etc.)
  • Be active in church events
  • Do ministry together

How to Make Sure Your Small Group Ministry Fails

by Craig Groeschel

Tons of churches have attempted small groups only to abort shortly after takeoff. I’ll share the top 10 ways to ensure the failure of your group.

1. Make sure the senior pastor isn’t in a group. If small groups aren’t modeled by the pastor, they won’t have much of a chance for success. (My wife Amy and I host two small groups in our home.)
2. Make sure the senior pastor doesn’t talk about small groups. If small groups don’t ever find their way into a sermon, it will help reduce the likelihood of success.
3. Make sure small groups are not staffed or resourced properly. To guarantee your groups fail, don’t staff them, buy them curriculum, announce them, or get your best volunteers involved.
4. Make sure small group leaders aren’t trained. When you do get some small group leaders, don’t train them. Let them figure it out on their own.
5. Make sure the church doesn’t address childcare needs. Pretend like all small groups don’t have any child care needs. Don’t open the church one or two nights a week to provide child care. Don’t pay for childcare. Don’t pay for childcare like I’ve heard North Point does. Ignore childcare needs completely.
6. Make sure the church doesn’t have a small group vision or philosophy. Let people do whatever they want without any direction or oversight.
7. Make sure your groups become inward-focused and never multiply. Don’t ever encourage your groups to give life to new groups. Allow them to grow inward-looking. Better yet, hope they become filled with negative and critical church members.
8. Make sure to require your church attenders to do so many other things they’ll never want to be in small groups. Ask people to go to Sunday night church, Wednesday night church, committee meetings, Sunday school, etc. If you keep them so busy, you can ensure they won’t participate in small groups.
9. Make sure not to require staff members to be involved. If your staff (or key leaders) aren’t in groups, that will help keep others from being in groups.
10. Make sure you never make small groups a membership or partnership requirement. Be a low-expectation church. While you’re at it, don’t ask people to serve, pray, witness, or give sacrificially either.

How to Increase small group ministry in your church

  1. Small Group Leaders, the Church’s Heroes
  2. Stories of Life-changing Relationships When possible, get small group members to tell their stories
  3. Position Small Groups as High Priority
  4. Make sure the pastor is leading and sharing stories about the small group

How can your Pastor help grow small groups

•    Cast vision for the small group ministry (at least every thirty days) from the pulpit.
•    At every opportunity remind decision-making church leaders (elders, deacons, trustees, etc…) how important this ministry is to the church.
•    Tell stories of lives changed through the small group via video, testimonies, or as sermon illustrations.
•    Encourage church members to join a small group.
•    Come to small group events and training opportunities, stay for a few minutes, and thank the leaders for all they are doing and tell how much it means to the accomplishment of the church’s mission.
•    When necessary, let the church know of the need for small group leaders and apprentices and who to talk to become a leader or apprentice.
•    Go to bat during the budgeting process ask for money for the training of leaders, the nurture of leaders, and the resources leaders need.
•    Be in a group (or lead one) and talk about it.


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